Quality controlA main purpose of the review process is to ensure quality of publications. Thus, reviewers must have the possibility to control the quality of submitted papers. Quality control includes issues like the following:
- Is the research question interesting and new?
- Are the methods used in the paper appropriate?
When, in a theoretical paper, an authors claims that he or she has proven a new theorem, we obviously demand a proof. If the reader does not trust the theorem, the reader can go through the details of the proof and either find a mistake or be convinced. Proofs are usually included in the paper or in an appendix to the paper.
When, in a literature review, an author puts the own research into the context of research by other people, again we demand proof, now as a reference to the literature. If the reader does not trust the author's words, all the reader has to do is go to the library and check whether the author's interpretation of the literature is appropriate.
When, in the empirical part of a paper, an author claims that the data shows a certain pattern, the reader should have the possibility to check whether the conclusions which are drawn by the authors are really warranted. I think that it is not sufficient to rely on the claim that the author has observed some data, prepared the data, applied a method and then gets some results when only these results are available to the reader.
- The data observation process must be reproducible. One way to do this in the context of laboratory experiments is to provide the instructions and, for a computerised experiment, the computer program.
- The data preparation process must be reproducible. I.e. it must be clear how the
raw data was merged together, reshaped, recoded, how outliers were treated, etc.
All this can easily be achieved by providing the raw data and the methods to prepare the data. At least in the case of laboratory experiments there are usually no reasons not to provide the raw data. I also find it highly desirable to have a well documented procedure for the preparation of the data (ideally a computer program that translates the raw data into the prepared data). This makes it straightforward to check whether the raw data really produces the prepared data. Any manual and individual manipulation of the data with the help of spreadsheets etc. is risky, not always reproducible, and should be avoided.
- The application of the method must be reproducible. It must be clear which estimator was really used and with exactly which parameters.
- Peer Reviewers' Openness Initiative
- The CONSORT Statement
- equator network
- Uri Simonsohn (2013). Just Post It - The Lesson From Two Cases of Fabricated Data Detected by Statistics Alone. Psychological Science, 24(10), pp. 1875-1888.
- Aaron Mobley, Suzanne K. Linder, Russell Braeuer, Lee M. Ellis, Leonard Zwelling (2013). A Survey on Data Reproducibility in Cancer Research Provides Insights into Our Limited Ability to Translate Findings from the Laboratory to the Clinic. PLoS ONE, 8(5): e63221.
- C. Glenn Begley (2013). Reproducibility: Six red flags for suspect work. Nature, 497, 433-434.
- David L Vaux, Fiona Fidler, Geoff Cumming (2012). Replicates and repeats—what is the difference and is it significant? A brief discussion of statistics and experimental design. Science & Society, 13, 291-296.
- Florian Prinz, Thomas Schlange, Khusru Asadullah (2011). Believe it or not: how much can we rely on published data on potential drug targets? Nature, Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 10, 712.
- Jelte M. Wicherts, Denny Borsboom, Judith Kats, Dylan Molenaar (2006). The poor availability of psychological research data for reanalysis. American Psychologist, 61(7), 726-728.