Instead of repeating an experiment in a mouse disease model in their laboratory, researchers in Berlin, Germany, used a coin flip to confirm whether a drug protects the brain against a stroke, as reported in its publication of September 9. April in the open access journal. Biology of the PLOS.
With this provocative and seemingly absurd experiment, Sophie Piper and her colleagues at the Berlin Health Institute (BIH) and the Charité -Universitätsmedizin Berlin drastically expose a problem that potentially affects many studies in experimental biomedicine. Small sample sizes, often below 10, and almost universally loose thresholds to accept statistical significance (5%) lead to a high rate of false positive results and an overestimation of the actual effects. Their study alerts researchers that, contrary to common expectation, the replication of a study, in environments that are common in many laboratories around the world, may not add more evidence than could be obtained by flipping a coin .
Many fields of research are fighting against what has been called "the crisis of replication." Very often the results of a laboratory can not be replicated by researchers in another laboratory, with successful replication rates that often fall below 50%. This has shaken confidence in the soundness of the scientific enterprise in general and has stimulated the search for underlying causes.
To this end, many researchers have begun to repeat experiments within their laboratories as an integral part of sound science and good scientific practice. However, in their paper, Piper and her colleagues badyze the utility of replicating experiments in laboratories and send a surprising message of caution regarding current replication practices. They provide detailed theoretical and practical background on how to properly carry out and report replication studies to help scientists save resources and avoid the useless use of animals, while increasing the robustness and reproducibility of their results.
"Replication is a foundation of the scientific process, we can learn from successful and failed replication, but only if we design, perform and inform adequately," the authors said.
The replication crisis is good for science.
Piper SK, Grittner U, Rex A, Riedel N, Fischer F, Nadon R, et al. (2019) Exact replica: Foundation of science or game of chance? PLOS Biol 17 (4): e3000188. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000188
Can coins flip replace animal experiments? (2019, April 9)
retrieved on April 10, 2019
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