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Challenges in irreproducible research

Science moves forward by corroboration – when researchers verify others’ results. Science advances faster when people waste less time pursuing false leads. No research paper can ever be considered to be the final word, but there are too many that do not stand up to further study.

There is growing alarm about results that cannot be reproduced.  Explanations include increased levels of scrutiny, complexity of experiments and statistics, and pressures on researchers. Journals, scientists, institutions and funders all have a part in tackling reproducibility. Nature has taken substantive steps to improve the transparency and robustness in what we publish, and to promote awareness within the scientific community. We hope that the articles contained in this collection will help.

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Research & Reviews

  • Nature | Article | open

    Updates from the Human Microbiome Project analyse the largest known body-wide metagenomic profile of human microbiome personalization.

    • Jason Lloyd-Price
    • , Anup Mahurkar
    • , Gholamali Rahnavard
    • , Jonathan Crabtree
    • , Joshua Orvis
    • , A. Brantley Hall
    • , Arthur Brady
    • , Heather H. Creasy
    • , Carrie McCracken
    • , Michelle G. Giglio
    • , Daniel McDonald
    • , Eric A. Franzosa
    • , Rob Knight
    • , Owen White
    •  &  Curtis Huttenhower
  • Nature | News & Views

    The results of in vitro and in vivo screens to identify genes that are essential for the survival of a type of brain cancer show almost no overlap, underlining the need for caution when interpreting in vitro studies. See Letter p355.

    • Paul A. Northcott
  • Nature Human Behaviour | Perspective | open

    Leading voices in the reproducibility landscape call for the adoption of measures to optimize key elements of the scientific process.

    • Marcus R. Munafò
    • , Brian A. Nosek
    • , Dorothy V. M. Bishop
    • , Katherine S. Button
    • , Christopher D. Chambers
    • , Nathalie Percie du Sert
    • , Uri Simonsohn
    • , Eric-Jan Wagenmakers
    • , Jennifer J. Ware
    •  &  John P. A. Ioannidis
  • Nature | News & Views

    The finding that acute and chronic manipulations of the same neural circuit can produce different behavioural outcomes poses new questions about how best to analyse these circuits. See Article p.358

    • Thomas C. Südhof
  • Nature Methods | Commentary

    Quality control of cell lines used in biomedical research is essential to ensure reproducibility. Although cell line authentication has been widely recommended for many years, misidentification, including cross-contamination, remains a serious problem. We outline a multi-stakeholder, incremental approach and policy-related recommendations to facilitate change in the culture of cell line authentication.

    • Leonard P Freedman
    • , Mark C Gibson
    • , Stephen P Ethier
    • , Howard R Soule
    • , Richard M Neve
    •  &  Yvonne A Reid
  • Nature Methods | Commentary

    The reliability and reproducibility of science are under scrutiny. However, a major cause of this lack of repeatability is not being considered: the wide sample-to-sample variability in the P value. We explain why P is fickle to discourage the ill-informed practice of interpreting analyses based predominantly on this statistic.

    • Lewis G Halsey
    • , Douglas Curran-Everett
    • , Sarah L Vowler
    •  &  Gordon B Drummond