Maximising robustness and reproducibility in research

15th May 2017

Written by Jenny Pyke

Jenny is the R&D Program Advisor and Accreditation Manager with the National Association of Testing Authorities, Australia (NATA)


There are ongoing discussions regarding the lack of reproducibility of research. This concern, expressed globally, has been fuelled by stakeholders’ failed attempts to reproduce key research outcomes and the retraction of some research papers, and is reflected in articles published in journals such as Nature, the British Medical Journal, Science and Lancet.

Whilst the notion of reproducibility varies across different areas and contexts of research, there are some common threads. These include the detail and transparency of methods and processes used, the appropriate and complete capture of information, and the traceability of outcomes and conclusions to the data generated.

Measures such as the development and suitability of project plans; consistency in the format and style of collating and presenting policy, procedures and information;  the appropriateness of the accommodation and environment in which the research is conducted; the proper functioning of all equipment and instrumentation throughout a project; the checking of reagents and materials used in research to ensure that they are what they’re supposed to be; and assuring the impartiality of researchers and those reporting the outcomes and conclusions of the research; are all vital contributors to, or detractors from, these common threads.

Quality management systems based on international (ISO) standards are a valuable tool for introducing rigor around these variables without curtailing creativity and the exploration of serendipitous findings.

Taking a collegiate approach to understanding the issues around / barriers to, and exploring the tangible benefits of introducing a quality management system to research, we sought input and advice from stakeholders, regulatory bodies, supporters of research including the National Foundation for Medical Research and Innovation.

The outcome is the development of a two-day training course – Maximising robustness and reproducibility in research. 

Along the way we also hope to influence the notion of ‘good science’ to one that includes representation of the actual state of knowledge and enhancement of the ability of science to self-correct and incentivise rigorous, transparent and reproducible research practices that produce credible results.

Further information about the course will be available soon on the NATA website.

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