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Making science more reproducible

Despite the availability of methods and tools that allow researchers to share their work with others and a cultural shift towards research openness, a considerable amount of current scientific research cannot be reproduced or replicated. James Stagge, Assistant Professor of Hydrology, and collaborators at Utah State University, recently developed a survey tool that assesses published research and related research artifacts such as models and code for reproducibility. 

Professor James Stagge (R) works with students in CEGE's Environmental and Water Resources Teaching Laboratory.The team designed a 15 question survey that identified the availability of research related information that other scientists could use in related testing. In Assessing data availability and research reproducibility in hydrology and water resources, Stagge and his collaborators identified barriers that make reproducing or replicating research more difficult. For example, over 70% of the hydrology-related articles sampled stated that some materials related to the research were available to others. Stagge found, however, that he could access less than half of these materials. Even fewer articles included the data, models, and code used to conduct the initial research. 

While making these artifacts available to others requires more work from authors, there is growing interest in reproducibility of research within the scientific community. In addition to a number of new, online repositories designed to house various artifacts related to research, Professor Stagge hopes tools such as this survey will encourage colleagues, universities and the scientific community-at-large to more thoughtfully consider future reproduction of their work as they pursue research endeavors. “Adopting a reproducible model takes small changes in our everyday workflow,” Stagge said. “It pays huge dividends over time with easier uptake by colleagues and better review of results, which is a cornerstone of science.”