September 2018

Response to special report published by House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on research integrity

The National Measurement Laboratory at LGC welcomes the recent special report published by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee around ‘Research integrity’.

Rigorous, accurate and transparent research science is essential to allow our national societal challenges to be tackled effectively and to create UK position and influence internationally. The report acknowledges that problems can arise when errors, poor research design or even outright fraud occur: affecting research reputation and even potentially causing harm.

Poor reproducibility of results, although possibly due to a lack of research integrity, is significantly more likely to be due to unattributed errors associated with the different stages of study development and reporting: discrepancies between biological reagents and reference materials that are used, poor understanding of study design and data analysis, and of differing laboratory protocols for common processes.

At the National Measurement Laboratory creating the measurement framework in which a standardised approach for our researchers to derive and communicate their findings is key to a delivering a successful ecosystem in which the reproducibility of our results is assured. Tools for our researchers and examples of best practice support this ecosystem. One such example is our dMIQE guidelines for digital PCR analysis for DNA quantitation, which focus on improving transparency of reporting in science publications and deriving realistic conclusions from any given experiment: the guidelines have been cited by over 1/3 of digital PCR papers since their inception.

We particularly welcome the Committee's recommendations around training for experimental research design and greater inclusion of statistical analysis and development of statistical skills. We would further be encouraged to see UKRI include better measurement practice and more transparent reporting (of both positive and negative findings of their funded research) as part of their peer review system and in any centralised provision of training around research integrity.