Anita Bandrowski, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, works on tools to improve the transparency and reproducibility of scientific methods. (Her work on Research Resource Identifiers, or RRIDs, has been previously featured on Retraction Watch.) This week, Bandrowski and colleagues — including Amanda Capes-Davis, who chairs the International Cell Line Authentication Committee — published a paper in eLife that seeks to determine whether these tools are actually influencing the behavior of scientists, in this case by reducing the number of potentially erroneous cell lines used in published studies.
Such issues may affect thousands of papers. Among more than 300,000 cell line names in more than 150,000 articles, Bandrowski and her colleagues “estimate that 8.6% of these cell lines were on the list of problematic cell lines, whereas only 3.3% of the cell lines in the 634 papers that included RRIDs were on the problematic list,” suggesting “that the use of RRIDs is associated with a lower reported use of problematic cell lines.”
Retraction Watch spoke with Bandrowski about the role of these tools in the larger movement to improve transparency and reproducibility in science, and whether meta-scientific text-mining approaches will gain traction in the research community.
Researchers in China have retracted a 2016 paper exploring the replication behaviors of a retrovirus, after discovering that the key results could not be reproduced — possibly because their cell cultures had been contaminated.
The authors also cite a disagreement with a colleague, who they say contributed to the work but does not want to be listed as an author.
Nearly 50 years ago, researchers in Uppsala, Sweden used cells from a patient to establish a brain tumor cell line that has become widely used. But a new study suggests that the most common source of that cell line used by scientists today may not be derived from that original patient’s tumor, raising questions about the results obtained in hundreds of studies.
Authors of a molecular biology paper have pulled it after realizing that their cell lines were contaminated.
According to the notice in Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBoC), the contamination occurred by “unknown means” in the senior authors’ laboratory, who told us the mistake was a difficult one to catch. He added that they discovered the problem after other researchers published conflicting results.
He also noted that the contaminated cell lines were not used for experiments in any other papers.