Reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research

The Academy of Medical Sciences held a symposium in April 2015 to explore the challenges and opportunities for improving the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research in the UK. The report was published in October 2015.



Reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research: improving research practice

The Academy of Medical Sciences, jointly with the BBSRC, MRC and Wellcome Trust, held a symposium on 1-2 April 2015 to explore the challenges and opportunities for improving the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research in the UK.  

Questions about the reproducibility of scientific research have been raised in a number of different arenas over the last few years, including the general and scientific media, sparked in part by an increase in the number of retracted papers and a failure by industry to replicate findings in ‘landmark’ papers. The consequences are potentially significant for many areas of biological and broader scientific research. The meeting considered the implications for the future of biomedical research in particular, but we hope that the outcomes will be of interest across the disciplines.

A report of the symposium was published in October 2015, alongside a statement from the four sponsor organisations. Both documents are available to download on the right.

The Academy was also involved in the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ work on research culture and ethics, which led to the publication of a report on the ‘Culture of Scientific Research in the UK’ in December 2014. Our Director of Policy, Rachel Quinn, was a member of the working group and our President, Professor Sir John Tooke FMedSci, co-signed the report foreword. This was important background to our work on the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research and informed our symposium.

In October 2016, the InterAcademy Partnership for Health published a statement, A call for action to improve the reproducibility of biomedical researchThe statement was endorsed by 46 national Academies, including the Academy of Medical Sciences. The document is available to download on the right. 

The organisation of the symposium was overseen by a steering committee, who met for the first time in early November 2014. The steering committee members were:

  • Professor Dorothy Bishop FRS FBA FMedSci (Chair), Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology, University of Oxford
  • Professor Doreen Cantrell CBE FRS FRSE FMedSci, Professor of Cellular Immunology, Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow, and Vice Principal and Head of College, University of Dundee
  • Professor Peter Johnson FMedSci, Professor of Medical Oncology, University of Southampton
  • Professor Shitij Kapur FMedSci, Professor of Schizophrenia, Imaging and Therapeutics, King’s College London
  • Professor Malcolm Macleod, Professor of Neurology and Translational Neuroscience, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Caroline Savage FMedSci, VP and Head, Experimental Medicine Unit, GlaxoSmithKline
  • Professor Jim Smith FRS FMedSci, Director of Research, Francis Crick Institute, and Deputy CEO and Chief of Strategy, MRC
  • Professor Simon Tavaré FRS FMedSci, Director, Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, University of Cambridge
  • Professor Melanie Welham, Executive Director of Science, BBSRC
  • Dr John Williams, Head of Science Strategy, Performance and Impact, Wellcome Trust (member until June 2015)
  • Dr Nicola Perrin, Head of Policy, Wellcome Trust (member since July 2015)

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