Congressionally mandated committee explores research reproducibility and asks are antibodies at fault?

A congressionally mandated committee within the United States is looking at the impact reproducibility has on research, with potential for changes to US government funding rules.

We’ve been speaking to Dr Carl Ascoli, Chief Science Officer for US based antibody supplier Rockland Immunochemicals, about the problem being addressed and how US researchers and antibody companies can ensure their voices are heard before the next Committee Open Meeting on 31st May.

Carl outlined the following key points:

  • The National Academies of Science in the US has congressional mandated to explore scientific reproducibility.
  • Antibodies have had a lot more bad press in the US than Carl believes they deserve; he outlined that their use is helping in many medical breakthroughs, and the challenge of reproducibility is multifactoral.
  • The Committee is composed of 15 subject matter experts who will assess what is known and identify areas that need more information regarding issues of replication and reproducibility.
  • An open meeting was held on the 18th of April at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC, at which Dr Ascoli presented.
  • The committee was given a timeline of eighteen months to assess issues pertaining to reproducibility and replication, hear testimony by subject matter experts, deliberate and complete their investigations within approximately 18 months of the start of activities on October 2017.
  • Ultimately, a written report will be issued to Congress that includes an assessment of current activities to improve reproducibility and replication highlighting examples of good practices, and examine factors that adversely affect reproducibility and replication.
  • It is possible that the outcome of this process has an impact on levels of government funding available for research using antibodies.

Obviously we here at CiteAb believe strongly that antibodies are a highly valuable lifescience tool, saving lives in ways that were not possible before the development and application of them in research.

However, we have also spoken in depth about the need for validation and good referencing, with the aim of improving research reproducibility.

During the April open meeting, Dr Ascoli stated that, while data irreproducibility of life science research tools has been reported to be caused by faults in study design, biological reagents, protocols, data analysis and reporting, a disproportionate amount of media attention has focused on biological reagents including cell lines, antibodies and animal models.

Subsequent studies have suggested antibodies should garner the most attention due to claims published in studies indicating the lack of specificity of commercial reagents and the resultant inefficient use of research dollars because of this irreproducibility.

Speakers at this session challenged if a “crisis” of reproducibility, as has been claimed in the literature, exists, and added that the clear majority of research performed results in the collection of high quality data sufficient to support and reproduce scientific claims.

You can read more from that meeting and about the wider issues related to antibody research reproducibility in the US on the Rockland website.

The next meeting of the Committee is on 31st of May and some sessions are open do ensure that you contribute if you feel strongly about this subject.

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– Alicia and the CiteAb team