3 ways to ensure highest reproducibility of your research

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A recently conducted survey by Nature [1] asked over 1500 scientists in an online questionnaire about the state of reproducibility in research. Strikingly, the survey reveals that more than 70% of the researchers have attempted but failed to reproduce another scientist's experiments, and more than half even admitted having failed to reproduce their own experiments. A mixed opinion generated from this survey identifies nearly 52% of the respondents who strongly confirm of a reproducibility crisis in research and around 38% who claim the existence of a moderate crisis.

Lack of reproducibility in science is not a new debate but recent reports shed light on the ever-growing phenomenon, reasons being diverse. They range from complexity of experiments and statistics, lack of technical expertise required for reproduction, incomplete documentation, weak study design, variability of biological material, to succumbing to the ‘publish or perish’ culture. Most importantly, a lack of quality control at various steps of your scientific research can lead to pure sloppy mistakes, non-standardization, and increasing reproducibility issues as highlighted in a similar Nature [2] news article.

Be a part of the solution and proactively tackle the irreproducibility problem in 3 steps.
1. Ensure best starting material 
2. Introduce standardization along the workflow
3. Check if you can trust your results
QIAGEN Automation offerings
References
1. Ensure best starting material
Because only quality samples can transform into valuable insights

One major factor determining the success of an assay and its reproducibility is the sample composition itself. Variations in nucleic acid quality, like degradation, concentration, or presence of contaminants, can impact your result’s quality and their interpretation. Extraction of nucleic acids by different users increases manual intervention and chances of errors which further leads to irregularities in the research outcome. Automating the extraction of nucleic acids is one way to definitely ensure reproducibility. At QIAGEN, we have a range of automated nucleic acid extraction platforms for a variety of starting material and throughputs.

Monitoring changes in samples parameters is not only crucial for producing reliable results, but also saves you money, time and peace of mind. For example, large amounts of unwanted RNA in a DNA template sample can result in overestimation of DNA concentration and reduced PCR yields in downstream analyses. Unlike traditional spectrophotometers that simply provide an overview of all absorbing components, dye-free differentiation between DNA and RNA or other impurities, as performed by QIAxpert helps you counteract this issue, delivering reliable quantity reads in a couple of minutes. Don’t let your sample quality affect your results and insist on systems that truly reveal your sample quality. Read an application note from fellow researchers here.

2. Introduce standardization along the workflow
Leave no room for variation or manual handling errors

Implementing quality check at key steps in laboratory workflows can help standardize sample parameters (concentration, purity, size distribution, integrity, sequence) and the method by which the data is generated. Together with superior chemistries, lab automation can eliminate operator-to-operator variations in your experiment and increase robustness as well as reproducibility, thus making your results worth sharing with peers.

Examining your sample’s integrity and removing degraded samples from your sample pool greatly contributes to standardization of your results. Integrity of samples can be assessed by checking their size distribution by electrophoresis. Size distribution of samples directly correlate with their integrity and hence suitability for downstream applications. For instance, routine slab-gel electrophoresis involving manual steps may only provide sub-optimal results with high risk of error but with capillary electrophoresis as used in the QIAxcel Advanced System you can ensure better performance in terms of resolution, sensitivity and cost per sample. RNA samples are particularly labile and quality indicators such as the RIS (RNA Integrity Score) can help scientists to objectively assess the integrity of RNA samples and better standardize their RNA quality and hence the outcome of their experiments.

3. Check if you can trust your results 
Gain confidence in your data interpretation

As the designer of your experiment you might be biased about your results when it comes to data interpretation. Handing over some of the quantification and data analysis job to a smart lab instrument can let you have a more objective view on your assay performance. Furthermore, automatic reporting, unified digital data handling/management, and simplified data exchange guarantees reproducibility and traceability such that your PI or peers can confidently review your experiments.

Sequencing is an ultimate validation step a scientist should perform to ensure the pieces of DNA or RNA they are working with is the correct one and has not been mutated or altered in any way along the workflow. Sequencing technology such as Pyrosequencing not only provides the actual sequence of your DNA or RNA sample, it can precisely measure frequencies regardless of whether they are derived from SNPs, mutations or even DNA methylation. Our new PyroMark Q48 Autoprep using advanced Pyrosequencing technology combines detection, quantification, and generation of error-free sequencing data into one powerful system and delivers the most detailed and accurate information that you demand from your sample. Learn more about the application range of Pyrosequencing here.

QIAGEN Automation offerings
As there is no ONE-FOR-ALL technology for assessing all quality control parameters relevant to your research, automating the various QC steps within your workflow using QIAGEN instruments can save you time, money and peace of mind.

Summarizing key quality indicators and QIAGEN’s innovative quality control solutions.

QC Parameters

QIAxpert Spectrophotometer

QIAxcel Capillary Electrophoresis

System

PyroMark Pyrosequencer

Yield/concentration

Chemical contaminants

Protein contaminants

Degradation/sample integrity

Size range

Sequence & frequency analysis

 

 

Differentiation between DNA, RNA, and impurities


Reliability and reproducibility of quality control steps themselves is often overlooked and underestimated. Automating these important control steps introduces standardization and data management into your workflow; making troubleshooting easier, if anything shall happen. Although your immediate concern as we understand might be the cost that is involved in automating the quality control procedure, but what is alarming is the price that you pay when quality control is neglected right from the start leading to scenarios like the one discussed in an article in PLoS Biol [3]. Apart from wasting money, resources and time, you lose the very intrinsic rewards such as scientific vigor and recognition that comes with sharing of reliable, reproducible, high-quality data with the world.
So why not make your lab automated today and set high standards for your research tomorrow?

Connect with us to know more about QIAGEN Automated Solutions and request a demo now.

References
  1. Baker, M. (2016) 1500 scientists lift the lid on reproducibility. Nature 533: 452–454.
  2. Baker, M. (2016) How quality control could save your science. Nature 529: 456–458.
  3. Freedman, L.P., Cockburn, I.M., and Simcoe, T.S. (2015) The Economics of Reproducibility in Preclinical Research. PLoS Biol. 13(6): e1002165.

  • QIAxpert
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    QIAxpert is an innovative high-speed microfluidic UV/VIS spectrophotometer performing fast-paced nucleic acid quantification and quality control.

  • QIAxcel Advanced
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    QIAxcel Advanced System fully automates sensitive, high-resolution capillary electrophoresis and replaces tedious slab-gel electrophoresis analysis of DNA and RNA.

  • Pyrosequencing
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    Pyrosequencing is a technology of choice for quality control enabling rapid and accurate quantification of sequence variation.