Björn Gerlach attended the 5th WCRI, which was held in Amsterdam from May 28th to May 31st. With over 800 participants, it is the biggest conference of its kind addressing all different aspects of research integrity, e.g. meta-research, mechanisms to improve reproducibility and how to deal with research misconduct and fraud.
Many speakers with different backgrounds presented their opinions, thoughts and action items. For example, Robert-Jan Smitsfrom the European Commission stated that research integrity is a responsibility for all of us and endorsed the European Code of Conduct on Research Integrity, which was published at the beginning of this year. Also publishers presented their ideas and measures for improving quality in research: Bernd Pulverer, Editor in Chief at The EMBO Journal, stated that the peer review process is not broken but needs to be improved. For that purpose, he presented a new work-flow which includes purely technical reviews of research articles beside the classical peer-review process already conducted. Sowmya Swaminathanfrom Nature Springer in San Francisco formulated a clear role for journals in promoting reproducibility. She mentioned several aspects to act against the reproducibility crisis: advocacy, new policies, shifting incentives, providing an infrastructure (e.g. registered report), installing better reporting standards, increasing statistical methodology and providing discipline-specific standards. Keith Wollmannpresented the concept of the “STAR method”, developed at Cell Press. These are guidelines allowing for a structured and detailed reporting of the methods section.
Brian Nosekfrom the Center for Open Science (Charlottesville, USA) pointed out in a very entertaining way how important it is to integrate new concepts in a way researchers can refer to, e.g. the introduction of quality badges to promote an open research culture with registered reports (Design=>Collect&Analyze=>Report=>Publish) and the “Pre-registration challenge” (1000$ for 1000 researchers who pre-register their studies). Notably, 52 journals are already offering the preregistration of studies.
The importance and the need for training programs was also emphasized and discussed by Patricia Valdezfrom the NIH. A very specific example was presented by Rebecca Daviesfrom the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, USA. Rebecca established a detailed Research Quality Assurance course in the MD/PhD and PhD training program. 12 students started this interesting teaching module which is run as pilot and will last over 3 years.
Overall, it was a really interesting conference with many talks and presentations running in parallel sessions with a highly enthusiastic community mainly consisting of academics, politicians and editors. Hardly any people with an industry background were spotted, which is noteworthy, since they also played an important part in revealing the “reproducibility crisis”. The next WCRI will be held in 2019 in Hong Kong and it will be interesting to see what ideas, strategies and measures discussed this year could be implemented to support the research community addressing current research integrity issues.