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Reproducibility

France to double check studies involving confidential data

Independent group will apply same methodology and certify reproducibility

by Benjamin Plackett, special to C&EN
July 24, 2019 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 97, ISSUE 30

 

To address the challenge of reproducing studies based on confidential records, researchers in France have created a new organization that will have access to the country’s confidential databases to double-check findings.

The ability of one researcher to reproduce another’s results is key for scientific rigor. But reproducing studies based on confidential records is not always possible because few people have access to the data.

France’s new group tackling this issue is called the Certification Agency for Scientific Code and Data (Cascad) (Science 2019, DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw2825). It is supported by the French National Center for Scientific Research and a consortium of French research institutions.

Scientists who work with confidential data from France’s Secure Data Access Center (CASD) can apply to Cascad for accreditation of their research. They must supply the methodology used for the analysis.

A Cascad reviewer then applies that methodology to the same data used by the researchers, explains Christophe Pérignon, a professor of finance at HEC Paris and a Cascad founder. If the reviewer replicates the results, Cascad issues a certificate confirming it.

“It gives the opportunity for researchers to signal that their research is reproducible,” Pérignon says. “They have no way to show it otherwise.”

So far, Cascad hasn’t vetted any chemistry research, but that could change in the future. “We would like to have such a project for chemistry,” CASD director Kamel Gadouche says. The CASD holds governmental and private data sets, including data on the environment, agriculture, and health.

Pérignon agrees that chemical studies would be a natural fit for Cascad activities. “The societal impact would be particularly large,” he says.

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