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Reproducibility

Researchers rewarded for publishing null results and replication studies

by Laura Howes
February 18, 2020 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 98, ISSUE 8

Publishing null results and replication studies will now get Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine and Charité University Hospital researchers a small cash bonus of €1000 ($1,080) in their research funding. The cash incentives are part of a “behavior change experiment” at the two institutions, which are both members of the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), to promote research integrity. BIH researchers also have access to electronic tools to assist with the effort, including an app to help researchers work out where to publish their nonstandard results. The two institutes also consider research practices such as publishing null results and open data when they evaluate scientists for funding, hiring and tenure, says Ulrich Dirnagl, director of the BIH’s QUEST (Quality, Ethics, Open Science, Translation) Center for Transforming Biomedical Research. The BIH founded QUEST in 2017 to improve the value and usefulness of its biomedical research, and the approaches taken over the last three years are outlined in a recent paper by the QUEST team (PLOS Biol. 2020, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000576). Dirnagl says these activities are designed to nudge researchers toward different behavior rather than upend how hiring and tenure committees assess scientists. He hopes the BIH’s work will provide a blueprint and useful advice for other organizations working on responsible research and innovation.

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