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“Research quality is an urgent matter”

In the March 2018 issue of the newsletter, we have previously discussed that the research rigor & reproducibility discussion starts to backfire and may have unwanted effects on research.

We have decided to bring this topic up again due to the recently published article: ‘Does animal-based research constitute ‘silent fraud‘?’ Indeed, the same evidence that can explain and justify the implementation of higher research quality standards is also used to support calls for a stop of animal experimentation.
First of all, it is very good that the research rigor literature is read. It is also good that it is cited and used to justify various improvements strategies or solutions.
However, what happens when the same data sets are used to justify two diametrically opposite solutions – “for better research” vs “stop research”? At the first glance, these are essentially incompatible extremes. And this may turn into a race where the winner is the party that manages to get REAL ACTIONS enforced:

On the ”stop research” side, the methods are often aggressive and can easily get viral. This community is united in their goal(s) and welcomes any support that comes handy (such as publications on research rigor).

On the “pro-research” side, there are still many who believe that there is no issue with research quality and see no need to change anything. These people are irritated by publications on research rigor and sometimes even see these discussions as a threat to their “right to conduct research”.

So, what is wrong and what needs to be fixed? First and most importantly, it has to be recognized that the society grants scientists with a possibility to do animal research BUT that this comes with non-negotiable legal and ethical obligations to perform such research properly and according to high-quality standards.
Thus, the key question is how do we ensure that research is done right? Can we secure high quality of research AFTER it is already conducted? How fast can the POST-research measures (publication policies, career development criteria, etc.) have their impact?
If we have no ability and courage to introduce “hard” measures to exert a fast and strong impact on current practices, we risk to lose the race…

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