The leading biomedical scientific journal PLOS Biology recently introduced a new section that focuses on meta-research. According to the editors of this section, more attention for this type of studies is necessary because biomedical research too often lacks transparency in terms of data and protocol availability, and funding.
The reproducibility of biomedical research has been a subject of discussion for a period of time. Too often no conflict of interest is reported or raw data and protocols are not available. According to the editors, 85 per cent of the funds annually invested in biomedical research are lost to irreproducibility. Therefore, meta-research – research about research – is necessary as an instrument for evaluation and quality control. The editors of PLOS Biology hope to stimulate meta-research and launch the new section with the publication of two illustrative articles.
In a research conducted by the American Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford (METRICS), Shareen Iqbal and colleagues analysed the availability of protocols and raw data of 441 biomedical articles published between 2000 and 2014. In only one article, a full protocol was attached and not one paper made their raw data available. Furthermore, in the majority of articles, no conflicts of interest or funding sources were mentioned.
In a meta-research of the German Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Constance Holman and colleagues assessed the validity of one hundred preclinical studies in which laboratory animals were used. In the majority of studies there was insufficient data on the number of used animals. In a lot of studies, animals even seemed to disappear. Using a mathematical model, the authors calculated the effect of the loss of animals. They concluded that a reduction of sample size not only diminished the statistical power of the study, but also increased the probability of false positives.
The editors emphasise that meta-research is an important instrument in improving biomedical research standards. With their new section on this subject, PLOS Biology hopes to create a forum for this relatively new field of research.
Source: PLOS Biology
Dit artikel verscheen in MedZine op 5 januari 2016.