The issue of “waste” in biomedical research has been a much-debated topic among experts for many years. Research facilities across the world are currently grappling with topics such as radical changes to the current system of rewards and incentives; alternative research methods; measures to improve the quality of research in general and thus maximize the reproducibility of scientific results; free access to publications; and the participation of citizens in research. Today, the Quest Center for Transforming Biomedical Research at BIH was officially opened in Berlin with a scientific symposium. The first center of its kind in the world, QUEST focuses on the key topics mentioned above in an effort to evaluate, improve, and further develop the quality and, above all, the value of preclinical and clinical research.
Professor Ulrich Dirnagl, director at the Center for Stroke Research Berlin at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and founding director of the QUEST Center, assumed leadership of the new BIH unit in March 2017. At the opening, he presented more than ten projects currently underway at the new center – including a study on the publication rate of clinical trials at all German university hospitals, the results of which will be released soon. A second ongoing project involves the introduction of electronic lab notebooks at Charité. This digital data management system should help researchers to plan and analyze their experimental studies, to establish quality assurance measures, and to ensure they are complying with reporting guidelines. Further measures include promoting the publication of negative results, providing funds to cover open access charges, and founding a citizens’ cooperative where people can safely record, manage, and control access to their personal data.
“The professional development of scientists today is still dependent on how much of – and where – their research has been published. This approach is outdated,” says Ulrich Dirnagl, who has been actively committed to transforming the research culture for many years. “Open access publishing, for example, should also be an indicator of good research.” Another very important prerequisite for valid research, he says, is its reproducibility: “It must be possible to replicate research results from laboratories and clinics, thereby improving their statistical clout.”
The opening event took the form of a scientific symposium, where renowned experts presented research activities that contributed to the debate “reduce waste – increase value.” David Moher of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute outlined certain methods and initiatives adopted in Canada and the United States that have successfully brought about change and greater value in biomedical research. He gave the example of the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, which is now a fully fledged open science institute – meaning all research data is published in an open-access format. Moher also discussed how “publications officers” can contribute to a culture change in research. In addition, he recommended redefining the common indicators used to measure research performance and establishing a so-called “trials tracker” to keep a record of the registration and publication of clinical trials.
Experts Ernst Hafen (ETH Zurich), Ivan Oransky (New York University School of Medicine), Frank Miedema (University Medical Center Utrecht), Trish Groves (BMJ, UK), Daniel Strech (Hannover Medical School) and Londa Schiebinger (Stanford University) all presented projects focused on improving research quality and openly discussed their various experiences.