Make replication studies a normal part of science

15 January 2018

The systematic replication of other researchers’ work should be a normal part of science. That is the main message of the Academy advisory report Replication studies – Improving reproducibility in the empirical sciences. Funding agencies and scientific journals should also make it easier for researchers to carry out and publish replication studies. In addition, better research methods and more transparent study reporting will improve the reproducibility of research results. 

Scientific knowledge builds on existing results. In recent years, however, many existing results in medicine, the life sciences, psychology and other fields could not be reproduced. Weak research methods, poor reporting and disincentives regularly lead to the same studies producing different results. Such non-reproducible results impede scientific progress and are a waste of research funding. They can also result in ineffective patient treatment. 

The advisory report on replication studies will be published on 15 January 2018.

Analysis of literature, workshop, interviews

An Academy committee interviewed researchers, analysed scientific literature, and organised a workshop for Dutch and foreign experts. 

The committee indicates that much can still be done to improve the quality and therefore the reproducibility of research. Studies should also be repeated more often. So far, replication studies account for only a few percent of published studies in a number of key disciplines. 

Replication studies require a joint effort

The Academy recommends that researchers, research institutions, funding agencies and scientific journals make a joint effort to facilitate replication studies, for example by requiring the proper storage of study data. Scientific journals should issue guidelines for study reporting and require preregistration of the study method and hypothesis. Scientists should assist other researchers who wish to repeat their study. Funding agencies should set aside more money for replication studies. Institutions should give researchers more credit in career evaluations  for conducting replication studies.