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Analytical Chemistry

Reproducibility needs clearer terminology, paper says

by Andrea Widener
June 6, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 23

The term “reproducibility” has been used as a stand-in for a variety of problems: data openness, experimental design, statistical analysis, or corroborating studies, for example. That means researchers are often miscommunicating when they talk about reproducibility, according to a commentary in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Authors Steven N. Goodman, Daniele Fanelli, and John P. A. Ioannidis of Stanford University suggest that “reproducibility” might be the wrong term to reflect worries in the scientific community that research cannot be confirmed (2016 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaf5027). Instead, the community should refer to “cumulative evidence” or “truth” in science. The authors suggest that the term “reproducibility” should be broken into three areas. “Methods reproducibility” refers to using the exact procedures, data, and tools to achieve the same result. “Results reproducibility” is the ability to corroborate the results using similar methods. “Inferential reproducibility” is drawing the same conclusions given the same data.

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