Reproducibility at Nature02 May 2013
Nature has jumped on to the reproducibility bandwagon and has announced a new approach to improving reproducibility of submitted papers. The new effort is focused primarily and methodology, including statistics, and in making sure that it is clear what an author has done.
To ease the interpretation and improve the reliability of published results we will more systematically ensure that key methodological details are reported, and we will give more space to methods sections. We will examine statistics more closely and encourage authors to be transparent, for example by including their raw data.
To this end they have created a checklist for highlighting key aspects that need to be clear in the manuscript. A number of these points are statistical, and two specifically highlight data deposition and computer code availability. I think an important change is the following:
To allow authors to describe their experimental design and methods in as much detail as necessary, the participating journals, including Nature, will abolish space restrictions on the methods section.
I think this is particularly important because of the message it sends. Most journals have overall space limitations and some journals even have specific limits on the Methods section. This sends a clear message that “methods aren’t important, results are”. Removing space limits on the Methods section will allow people to just say what they actually did, rather than figure out some tortured way to summarize years of work into a smattering of key words.
I think this is a great step forward by a leading journal. The next step will be for Nature to stick to it and make sure that authors live up to their end of the bargain.