What if the cost were boosted to about $9 billion because of wasted research that cannot be replicated?
That's a question that comes up as the result of a piece yesterday on Slate, an online news site. The headline on the article by award-winning science writer Daniel Engber said,
"There's a replication crisis in biomedicine -- and no one even knows how deep it runs."The Slate piece cited a $28 billion figure nationally for the amount of preclinical, biomedical research that cannot be reproduced and thus represents money wasted. The estimate was produced last June by two economists. They analyzed previous studies to come up with the dollar figure, calculating that 50 percent of the research they examined could not be replicated.
Engber's article also dealt with work by the Reproducibility Project for Cancer Biology. He wrote,
"For some experiments, the original materials could not be shared, red tape notwithstanding, because they were simply gone or corrupted in some way. That meant the replicating labs would have to recreate the materials themselves—an arduous undertaking. (Elizabeth) Iorns (a member of the project team) said one experiment
called for the creation of a quadruple-transgenic mouse, i.e. one with its genome modified in four specific ways. 'It would take literally years and years to produce them,' she said. 'We decided that it was not going to happen.'
Elizabeth Iorns, Science Exchange photo
"Then there’s the fact that the heads of many labs have little sense of how, exactly, their own experiments were carried out. In many cases, a graduate student or post-doc did most of the work, and then moved on to another institution. To reconstruct the research, then, someone had to excavate and analyze the former student or post-doc’s notes—a frustrating, time-consuming task. 'A lot of time we don’t know what reagents the original lab used,' said Tim Errington, the project’s manager, 'and the original lab doesn’t know, either.'"