Scientific research is an increasingly collaborative effort. Research these days is often not the work of one lab, one department or even one university but many institutions coming together to combine their expertise and resources. So when there are that many players, how do you ensure that mistakes don’t creep in, that all the team members are on the same page, that the findings are reported accurately and are reproducible? That’s a major priority here at the School of Medicine.
When you mention “research integrity,” people naturally think of bad eggs falsifying results. And preventing that is absolutely a priority. But ensuring research integrity goes way beyond that. When it comes to irreproducible results, malice is far less common than simple human error. The point of collaborative science is that it brings together people with different areas of expertise, using incredibly sophisticated technology that generates vast amount of data. How do you make sure everyone is speaking the same language, that everyone has the same understanding, even as they come at the problem from different perspectives and with different skills?
The School of Medicine recently brought together leaders from several universities around the country to discuss just that. During a very interesting discussion, they talked about what they had encountered and the best practices they had developed. At the end of the event, it was clear this would be an ongoing discussion, both at UVA and beyond. The session was a great way to begin an ongoing dialogue.
Expect to hear more from us on this important issue.