Despite the proliferation of journals and publications, our basic science efforts often do not pay off in new treatments. Part of this is time; it generally takes 15-20 years for a new science observation to be translated to the bedside.
The uglier part of the story is lack of reproducibility of preclinical studies.
The bottom line: well under half! Inconsistent effects do not make good treatment prospects.
Saturday’s seesion, Reproducibility in Research: What are the problems? How can we fix them? What happens if we don’t?, addressed these issues. Sponsored by the Policy Committee, the session brought together several speakers to address the issues.
Perhaps the most intriguing idea involved unconscious bias. This concept receives a lot of attention during discussions of diversity issues. Most of us have been conditioned to see a white male as the default for a professor or a leader. In science, the bigger problem is the way we do it. As humans, we are programmed to find evidence that supports our bias and, perhaps, minimize findings that contradict it. In forming a hypothesis, we develop a bias requiring support.
So what can we do about this unconscious process?
One though is to stop making hypotheses.
Now, before you start screaming about scientific sacrilege, just listen. The idea would be to have multiple potential thoughts about possible outcomes or to just define a scientific question without defining outcomes.
Obviously, eliminating our current well-defined hypothesis testing model will not solve all these issues, especially with such pressure for high-impact publications to get funding and keep jobs. A variety of other ideas came up, but the problem clearly does not have an easy fix.
This great session left us with more questions than answers. What a great way to start the meeting!