Promoting Reproducibility in Medical Research
As of April 1, 2007, the Annals of Internal Medicine instituted a new policy designed to help the research community evaluate and build on published results. Authors of original research articles in the Annals are required to include a statement indicating whether the study protocol, data, and statistical code are available to readers and under what terms the authors will share this information. Sharing is not mandatory, but authors are required to state whether they are willing to share the protocol, data, and statistical code. Authors are not asked whether they are willing to make this information available until after a manuscript is accepted for publication.
According to an article announcing the new policy, the goal of the new requirement is to promote “reproducible research” in which independent researchers can reproduce results using the same procedures and data as the original investigators. Reproducible research does not require unlimited access to data and methods, but it requires access to as much of the dataset and statistical procedures as is necessary to reproduce the published results. As the article states:
Major cultural shifts in research must occur before a world of completely reproducible research can exist. These shifts include increasing the technical capacity of many research teams, further developing acceptable data-sharing mechanisms, and supporting—both professionally and financially—the publishing of reproducible research.… We hope that shining a spotlight on the availability of the study protocol, data, and statistical code for every Annals research report will be seen as a small but important step toward biomedical research that the public can really trust. At the same time, it will enhance what is perhaps the main function of a journal: to provide a transparent medium for a conversation about science.a