To show our commitment to transparency and reproducibility in scientific research, Open Biology has introduced a reporting form that will be made publically available alongside published papers. The lack of credible and reproducible science has for a long time, been a focus for many researchers, publishers, stakeholders and funders alike, and has led to a number of initiatives being launched over the last several years to help address these concerns. The aim of this initiative is to encourage authors to disclose key elements of their experimental design.
Promoting reproducibility has long been a commitment for Royal Society Publishing. In 2015, Royal Society Open Science launched Registered Reports, which set out to optimise the scientific process by shifting the emphasis from the results to the questions that guide the study and methods used, thus eliminating various forms of bias and improving transparency in carrying out the research.
A common scenario authors often face during peer review is having to go back and forth to deal with queries and issues concerning their statistical methods or experimental design. This usually results in delays to the publication process. The purpose of the new reporting form is to help improve reporting behind a manuscript, in compliance with our editorial policies, rather than a defined set of standards. It should give authors the means to provide details of how the study was put together, preformed and analysed at the submission stage in order to make it easier for reviewers and readers to assess the quality and better understand the results.
The form requires the author to disclose details of the experimental design, key reagents, cell lines, source data, images and software used in the study and will provide the experimental and statistical details that will allow others to replicate the study. The checklist provided is based on the NIH Principles and Guidelines for Reporting Preclinical Research and is intended to help ensure high standards for reporting and to aid reproducibility. Authors are directed to report all items included in the form in the methods section of the manuscript. The additional benefit for Open Biology authors is the unrestricted length limits of their papers that will allow for full reporting and inclusion of details, in alignment with NIH’s policy.
In 2017, Open Biology introduced open peer review on all manuscripts in order to make the editorial process of papers as transparent as possible, by making the reviewer reports, decision letter and associated author responses publicly available alongside published articles. We will extend this policy to the form by also publishing the completed form alongside the published paper, which will be available as a downloadable PDF.
Here are some of the steps authors can take to ensure the reproducibility and transparency of their experiment:
- ensure that the design of experiments includes appropriate controls and replicates;
- use appropriate statistical tests and seek advice where necessary;
- keep records and back up raw data;
- document all procedures and parameters (‘Materials and Methods’) with as much detail as possible;
- learn about and follow the guidelines describing the minimum information required for the publication of laboratory experiments e.g. real-time PCR (MIQE)
- submit (well annotated) experiments to a public database
We continue to encourage authors to share data and method details through online resources such as BioStudies, a new data service provided by The European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) which packages all the data supporting a study, giving a home to unstructured data and linking to datasets in established repositories. This initiative is one of the ways we can improve the quality of work published. We recognise that it is just one step of many to work towards better support of robust science and reflect the community’s need for openness transparency in research.
Open Biology is looking to publish more high quality research articles in cellular and molecular biology. Find out more about our author benefits and submission process.
Image credit: Sharing, Reproducibility, Replication – AN NIH View ACS National Meeting March 24, 2015 Philip E. Bourne, PhD, FAMCI Associate Director for Data Science, NIH Department of Health and Human Services