Fostering reproducibility in industry-academia research
Many companies have proprietary resources and/or data that are indispensable for research, and academics provide the creative fuel for much early-stage research that leads to industrial innovation. It is essential to the health of the research enterprise that collaborations between industrial and university researchers flourish. This system of collaboration is under strain. Financial motivations driving product development have led to concerns that industry-sponsored research comes at the expense of transparency (1). Yet many industry researchers distrust quality control in academia (2) and question whether academics value reproducibility as much as rapid publication. Cultural differences between industry and academia can create or increase difficulties in reproducing research findings. We discuss key aspects of this problem that industry-academia collaborations must address and for which other stakeholders, from funding agencies to journals, can provide leadership and support. Here we are not talking about irreproducibility caused by fundamental gaps in knowledge, which are intrinsic to the nature of scientific research, but situations in which incomplete communication and sharing of techniques, data, or materials interferes with independent validation or future investigations. Irreproducibility has serious economic consequences. Representatives of venture firms and industries such as biopharma argue that they must replicate findings from academic research before investing. For preclinical research, this can involve, on average, two to six researchers, 1 to 2 years, and $500,000 to $2,000,000 per project (2). For academic scientists, an inability to trust research findings means an erosion of confidence from the scientific community, decision-makers, and the general public, as well as the waste of scarce resources.