Irreproducible life sciences research in U.S. costs $28 billion

Problems with preclinical studies often stem from flaws in experimental design and materials

flaws in research

BIG SPENDERS  Preclinical research is all too often irreproducible. Its flaws, which tend to stem from four broad categories, cost big bucks.

L.P. Freedman, I.M. Cockburn and T.S. Simcoe/PLOS Biology 2015, adapted by M. Telfer

Around half of all preclinical research in the United States is not reproducible (SN: 1/24/15, p. 20). That failure comes with a hefty annual price tag: about $28.2 billion, concludes a review of data on irreproducibility published in the June 9 PLOS Biology.

Leonard Freedman of the Global Biological Standards Institute in Washington, D.C., and colleagues grouped the root causes of lack of reproducibility into four main categories. The worst offender, the team found, was faulty biological reagents and reference materials, such as contaminated or misidentified cell lines.

The researchers emphasize that it won’t be quick or inexpensive to fix long-established flaws in the way research gets done. But the economic and health benefits could be enormous.

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