Unambiguous identification of antibodies, cell lines and organisms around the globe: A call for the Research Resource ID
The reproducibility crisis affecting different research areas is widely discussed, and – without any doubt- the underlying causes are very complex. It is also clear that there is not just one solution, but many different pieces must come together to tackle all multifaceted issues and to create a change in the research landscape.
Correct and detailed reporting is one important aspect, which enables the understanding and reproduction of experiments. However, it is often not possible to unambiguously identify the tools and resources that were used in published experiments. Hence, Anita Bandrowski and Maryann Martone established the Research Resource Identifier (RRID) and challenged the current practice of reporting reagents and even organisms (Bandrowski & Martone, 2016).
Bandrowski and Martone are the founders of SciCrunch, a data sharing platform offering plenty of possibilities to archive and share data, and also hosting the RRID portal. Finding the RRID for a specific reagent can be done on the SciCrunch-Webpage. This webpage also offers the possibility to set up RRIDs for resources not listed yet or newly developed research tools. But also vendors, such as BioLegend, are on board to add their reagents to the database and reflect the RRIDs on their website for each antibody.
All collected information is curated by SciCrunch employees before the RRID is assigned. Only such a rigorous process ensures correct information and tracking of research resources across different companies, especially when companies are acquired or sold and the catalogue number for the reagent changes.
The National Institutes of Health has issued a set of guidelines (e.g. NOT-OD-16-004) for areas where they believe experiments fail most frequently and created a set of new grant review criteria, overhauling how we fund research, and that overhaul includes a document that describes how labs will authenticate the resources they use, specifically antibodies, model organisms and cell lines. RRIDs are a way to take the first step in this authentication, which is to identify the correct reagents. In total, 571 journals (as of August 15th, 2018) including eLife, Society for Neuroscience journals, and all of Cell Press (part of the STAR methods) are encouraging the use of the RRID. With the RRID, “identifiability” of antibodies increases from 50% to well over 90% (Bandrowski et al, 2016) and while this does not ensure reproducibility alone, it is a really good step in the right direction.
PAASP members recognize from their own experiences that persistent unambiguous identification of biological and chemical reagents is an absolute necessity to produce reproducible research. Therefore, PAASP endorses the RRID and recommends the use during the PAASPort evaluation process. This globally used and unique identifier for research resources will lead to a better transparency of research.