Fighting Irreproducibility

(February 3rd, 2015) Considering publishing your next research article in one of the PLoS journals? If your answer is yes, then you should know about the launch of a new initiative at PLoS Biology and PLoS Genetics – the Research Resource Identification Initiative.

In the crusade against irreproducible research findings, a clear and unambiguous description of methods and materials is one of the most important ‘weapons’. But if these weapons aren’t shouldered, researchers continue to march in the dark, wasting valuable time, money and resources. That’s why PLoS announced in the end of January, their participation in an “exciting pilot study”.

Fitting in with the principles formulated by Force11, a community of scholars, librarians, archivists, publishes and research funders, aiming at a “change towards improved knowledge creation and sharing”, PLoS now recommends future authors to use unique Resource Identifiers (RRIDs). “We strongly encourage our PLoS Biology and PLoS Genetics authors to use these RRIDs though wherever possible to identify their model organisms, antibodies or tools,” PLoS writes in a statement.

What exactly is an RRID and where do I find one, you may wonder? The first place to look for answers to these questions is the RRID portal – a “central location for obtaining and exploring RRIDs”. There, you learn it only takes four easy steps to find your RRID of interest. One: Select a resource type (antibody, organism, tool). Two: Enter a query to find the record of your resource. Three: Check the metadata associated with the search results to confirm you have the right resource. Four: Click the “Cite This” button and copy the provided text into your publication. Voilá. The first battle against irreproducibility has been won.

If your particular resource is not yet in the system, you can always add it. But maybe that’s not necessary as, for instance, the antibody database currently contains 2,403,478 entries. Putting the system to the test, we could quickly identify (through limiting the search by antibody target, vendor, clonality and/or host organism) the antibody of our choice; let’s say monoclonal rabbit anti-GFAP, sold by OriGene Technologies. Pressing the “Cite This” button, as advised, spews out this unique identifier: RRID:AB_2109803. Easy as pie!

“To ensure they are recognizable, unique, and traceable, identifiers are prefixed with "RRID:", followed by a second tag that indicates the source authority that provided it (e.g. "AB_" for the Antibody Registry, "MGI_" for Mouse Genome Informatics, "nif-" for the Neuroscience Information Framework)”.

So, how to incorporate this sequence of numbers and letters into your manuscript? PLoS suggests adding it at the first mention of the resource and perhaps including an extra list of RRIDs at the end of the manuscript.

Still not convinced? PLoS has some more arguments for RRID. “Imagine that you’re evaluating what antibody to use; if you can easily track all papers that have used various antibodies previously, you can assess how well the antibody works in others’ hands in different scenarios, and thus be better able to choose which one to use for your study. Or, if you have generated an antibody and made it freely available, you’ll be able to see how frequently it is used by others, and to gain proper recognition via RRID citations for your materials.”

We think: More than enough reasons to start identifying now.

Kathleen Gransalke   

Photo: Hodan

Last Changes: 03.13.2015