Funders and journals, not students, should lead on standards for research rigour

University of Aberdeen, UK.

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The efforts of Amy Orben and other young researchers to fight the perverse incentives that dominate science right now are all the more impressive because these scientists are at the most vulnerable point of their careers (Nature 573, 465; 2019). And, just as it’s shameful that teenagers have to lead international action against the climate crisis, students and new postdocs should not have to spearhead these efforts.

Top-down pressure to improve research practice is needed. In my experience, even the smallest mandate from funders, publishers or performance assessors boosts incentive. Evaluators of research quality should openly declare how they measure a study’s rigour and how that rigour contributes to quality scores. And funders should insist that institutions sign the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, commonly known as DORA.

For their part, prestigious journals need to be more willing to accept registered reports and direct replications of studies they have published. And publication of the code and syntax behind analyses in manuscripts should be obligatory across all journals.

These are not radical proposals. Any one of them would reinforce trustworthiness in science.

Nature 574, 333 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-03118-x

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