THE Journal of Irreproducible Results is a long-running satirical magazine, designed for the amusement of scientists. If the title were not already taken, though, it would be a good one for another, more serious publication that is being launched on February 4th. The Preclinical Reproducibility and Robustness Channel, an electronic rather than a paper journal, is dedicated to the task, found tedious by most academic researchers, of replicating and testing the experiments of others. Professional egos, the exigencies of career-building and the restricted sizes of grants and budgets all conspire against the rerunning, in universities, of old studies instead of the conducting of new ones.
Commercial researchers cannot afford to be so choosy. If they pick an idea up from academia, they have to be sure that it works. Often, it doesn’t. For example, when staff at Amgen, a Californian drug company, attempted to reproduce the results of 53 high-profile cancer-research papers they found that only six lived up to their original claims.