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Better translation with MIASCI

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Over the last years, a fundamental problem occurred in the field of neuroscience: reproducibility. Reproducibility is one of the main principles in science. It describes the ability of another independent scientist to reproduce an entire experiment or study. Reproducibility is necessary to correctly validate the results and findings and to show that the same positive outcome can be achieved in slightly different conditions or environments.

If an experiment is repeated and fails to generate a positive outcome, it raises an essential question, namely which one of the results is the right one? This is certainly important due to the fact that all results need to be validated before moving into a clinic trail. In the past, effective experimental therapies were dropped because they couldn’t be replicated successfully.

The lack of reproducibility in many areas of experimental science has a number of causes, including a lack of transparency and precision in the description of experimental approaches. Why is that?

Well, let’s compare it with an article about an event in a general newspaper. The newspaper has space for 500 characters only to write about the event, even if there’s a lot more information to talk about. The same applies for scientific publications. Research results of several years work need to be squeezed into a certain space.

A new paper entitled “Minimum Information About a Spinal Cord Injury Experiment (MIASCI), J Neurotrauma. 2014 May” is addressing exactly this problem. It proposes new reporting standards for spinal cord injury experiments. The MIASCI Consortium includes members of the Wings for Life’s Scientific Advisory Board such as Prof. Jan M. Schwab, Prof. Samuel David, Prof. Zhigang He, Prof. Michael V. Sofroniew and Prof. Stephen M. Strittmatter.

One of the main authors of the article, Dr. Adam R. Ferguson, tackles the issue of missing information also in his study currently funded by Wings for Life (please see Dr. Ferguson’s grant description here. While creating a shared database, he faced the problem that, additional to the high number of publications, which makes it almost impossible for an individual researcher to know all the relevant literature, the published studies are difficult to compare due to missing information.

The first step to address this problem was the adoption of uniform reporting standards (information is encoded in the same way) as well as minimum information standards (the minimum of information needed to reproduce the experiments). This paper addresses exactly the defined issue by describing a minimum information standard for spinal cord injury (SCI) experiments. 12 included tables can give guidance for the researchers.

The adoption of such reporting standards by SCI researchers will improve the transparency of research and encourage the use of best practices. This system permits better reproducibility and will have the advantage of ensuring that valuable sets of data are not lost or needlessly duplicated.