Nature Metabolism is launching an online collection with articles highlighting best practices in experimental design, analysis and reporting to support the metabolic research community and increase the reproducibility of research in the life sciences.
In science, carefully and purposefully designed experiments are just as important as the research hypotheses they are meant to test. As journal editors, we are in the privileged position of regularly being exposed to cutting-edge research. However, we also read a fair number of studies that are plagued by poor experimental design. Often, these fatal flaws are not immediately apparent but are spotted by eagle-eyed referees. Over time, we have seen patterns of mistakes emerge that appear to be rooted either in a lack of understanding of the techniques used or in incomplete reporting of key methodological details.
As the wider community of researchers studying metabolism continues to expand — about which we are, of course, excited — we felt that the field would benefit from instructional articles covering tools that are widely used by the metabolic experimenter. Over the years, this initiative has organically grown into a series of articles published in Nature Metabolism, all of which share the common theme of highlighting best practices in experimental design, data analysis and reporting. We are now creating a dedicated home for these articles on our website in the form of a web collection.
Publishing such articles is, of course, not unique to Nature Metabolism. Specialist journals, in particular, have a long-standing tradition of developing community standards and publishing papers that invite readers to take a deep dive into methods and data analyses. We are not aiming to replace such initiatives. Rather, we intend to use the high visibility of Nature Metabolism to bring these important issues to the attention of the widest possible audience. We envision that our online collection will serve as a gateway for metabolic scientists — both students and more experienced researchers who are new to this field — to better understand the methods they use and to learn how to apply them most effectively.
We are happy that some of these articles have already sparked much-needed debates in the field about best practices and standardization, not only offline, but also in the form of associated Correspondence articles. These are exactly the types of debate we would like to promote and is where we feel Nature Metabolism, as a community journal, has an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the field.
A notable first for the journal was the publication of a Consensus Statement (M. P. Murphy et al. Nat. Metab. 4, 651–662; 2022) on how to measure oxidative damage in cells and tissues — a grassroots initiative from a global group of authors that we were delighted to support as it resonates well with our broader initiative to promote best practices. Current examples include a Comment (J. G. McDonald et al. Nat. Metab. https://doi.org/10.1038/s42255-022-00628-3; 2022) in this issue highlighting a checklist to improve the reporting of lipidomics experiments and a thorough Review from our August issue on how to design, conduct and interpret respirometry measurements (A. S. Divakaruni & M. Jastroch, Nat. Metab. 4, 978–994; 2022). Similarly, our ongoing SAGER trial (Nat. Metab. 4, 495; 2022) underscores our lasting commitment to improve the reporting of sex and gender in research manuscripts and to encourage the inclusion of female and male subjects in metabolic studies where this is feasible.
As new techniques and equipment are added to the experimental toolbox of researchers, it is only natural that new hurdles for data collection and analysis will arise. With this in mind, we hope you will find these articles and growing web collection useful for your research. If you have suggestions for other related topics you would like to see covered, we would love to hear from you!
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Improving the reproducibility of metabolic research. Nat Metab 4, 1085 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42255-022-00653-2