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[ RESEARCH INTEGRITY ] March 22, 2022

Reproducibility and early-stage research

The value of research rests on reaching a conclusion based on systematic testing of a hypothesis. But one single test, by one researcher in one lab, is not enough for proof. The true power of science comes from reproducibility that generates the same results. ‍What impact could conferences and sharing early-stage research have on this problem? 

The wrong motivations

Research is a complex ecosystem. Your members are under immense pressure to publish to advance their careers. But this creates a bias. Investigating whether another paper’s methods produce the same results is less interesting to reviewers and less likely to make a splash in the publishing landscape. 

‍This is where early-stage research can have an impact. Sharing results early and broadly brings collaboration into the process sooner. We need to create space to debate and discuss findings before beginning the publishing process. Openly sharing at this stage refines methodologies and pressure-tests conclusions, leading to better science overall. And we can support the career development motivations by ensuring that early-stage research is citable. So what better place for these conversations than at a conference?


The slow process

The need to have an impact with your research is compounded by the time it takes to publish that research. Much of this process is critical - especially peer review - but it means that research gets hidden away while it's reviewed. At the same time, there’s an urgent need for new research, and an endless supply of critical questions that science has to address. It can feel like going backwards to spend time replicating research that’s already a year old when it's published.

‍But what if there was less waiting? Instead of waiting for a published article, or even a preprint, before replicating results, solving this crisis can begin at conferences. Dedicated sessions that explore methods or put early-stage research into the context of the replication crisis could have a big impact.


Feel positive about negative results

Now here’s a sobering statistic: papers that can be replicated successfully are cited 153 times less than those that can’t be replicated. There’s a certain amount of common sense to that: if a paper’s finding is “unique,” then it's more likely to be used over and over, perpetuating the replication crisis. But also contributing to this statistic is the fact that it can be a challenge to have negative results published, even though they are equally valuable from the perspective of growing our understanding of a scientific discipline. 

‍Can conference research solve this problem as well? Can conferences become constructive collaboration hubs where negative results are discussed for new ideas and next steps? Can publishing negative results in early-stage research help improve the ongoing scientific record while also easing some of the burdens on publications to share these findings? 


What do we do?

The answers to these questions are up to each organization. It is within our power to share early-stage research broadly through online libraries, or open up conferences virtually to the whole world. Doing so while actively strategizing to solve the replication crisis could lead to conference tracks dedicated to negative results, or sharing methods earlier to save time reproducing, or create new continuous forms of collaboration that help researchers establish their careers. At Morressier, we have the tools to help.

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