July 27, 2023


Science Has a Reproducibility Problem. Can Sample Sharing Help? (TIM VERHAGEN & JULIE NOVÁKOVÁ 07.27.2023, UnDark)

THE OPEN SCIENCE movement, which seeks to make research more transparent and more widely accessible, has been transforming the scientific landscape for several decades now -- almost certainly for the better. A move toward transparency in the journal peer review process could help increase trust in academic publishing; widespread data sharing has enabled scientists to more easily check their peers' work and build off one another's results; and open access publishing models have helped democratize knowledge, allowing anyone, anywhere to read a study's findings. (Admittedly, open access models -- which typically require authors to pay upfront fees -- have also created publication barriers for some researchers and unleashed a tsunami of predatory journals that sacrifice quality for profit.)

Is this where open science ends, though?

The two of us -- a materials science researcher with the Czech Academy of Sciences and a trained evolutionary biologist who's now active in science education and outreach -- believe open science can go a step further: Scientists should make a more concerted effort to share their physical samples. Doing so would improve reproducibility, spur innovation, and help level the playing field in a pursuit where funding and resources are unevenly distributed.

To see the importance of sample sharing, one need look no further than the Covid-19 pandemic. Although China publicly shared the genetic sequence data of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, about two weeks after the first cluster of cases was reported in late 2019, the world had to wait another two and a half weeks to get access to physical samples of the virus, from researchers in Australia. While synthetic biology has made it possible to reconstruct viruses from genetic data, actual viral isolates can still be needed to recover infectious viral particles for developing diagnostic tests, antivirals, and vaccine testing.

Posted by at July 27, 2023 4:59 AM