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Stanford University School of Medicine

New award rewards reproducing existing research

award-309089_1280The first research paper to describe a new phenomenon gets all the glory. A high profile publication. A great line on the scientist’s CV. Another step toward tenure.

What about the paper that verifies or fails to verify the phenomenon? That researcher rarely gets anything. No gold star, no celebration, notta.

That’s why so few scientists try to reproduce other people’s findings and instead focus on new work. The problem is that sometimes that first discovery is wrong, and the sooner everyone knows it, the better. Some estimates have suggested that less than 30 percent of research findings can be reproduced in some fields.

Concerned about this lack of reproducibility research, research associate Chris Gorgolewski, PhD, had an idea. What if there was a venue for fame and glory associated with trying to reproduce results? Gorgolewski, along with psychologist Russell Poldrack, PhD, convinced the largest research organization in their field – the Organization for Human Brain Mapping -- to give an award for the best research aimed at reproducing existing work. Complete with a plaque, a high profile award ceremony, and the admiration of assembled peers.

Gorgolewski reminisced on his inspiration for this idea, which came at a conference where Poldrack was delivering a conference summary. “He mentioned some software I was doing and it felt great. It gave me the motivation to power through some struggles even though software is not something that is prestigious,” he said.

Public acknowledgement might not lead to tenure, but the warm and fuzzy feeling it incites counts for something.

Poldrack told me that by giving scientists some recognition for their work, it could inspire more of the kind of research he’d like to see. “This is just one way we can change the incentive structure to align with how we want science to work,” he said. Poldrack has also spearheaded efforts to make it easier for scientists to share and disseminate data, two other areas where he feels science could work better.

Previously: At the heart of reproducibility lies the problem of transparency, How a file storage system can help advance neuroscience
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images

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