SIUFrankfurt: Open Science-Applications in Research and Industry

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Author: Vanessa Hübner Edited by: Ruth Sang Jones

SIUFrankfurt recently hosted an interesting event on “Open Science: Applications in Research and Industry”. We invited Dr. Axel Kohler, the Deputy Managing Director for Natural and Life Sciences (GRADE) in Frankfurt and Dr. Susanne Müller-Knapp, the Chief Operating Officer of Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) in Frankfurt.

The first speaker of the evening was Dr. Axel Kohler, who explained that open science refers to the access of data, materials, methods, knowledge, sources, hardware, licensing etc. This access is relevant to the public, but is especially important in the academic environment.  But why is it important to speak about open science?

A 2016 study published in Nature by Dr. Monya Baker revealed that an overwhelming majority of scientists feel that research is in a reproducibility crisis. Dr. Kohler believes that the problem arises from the high degrees of freedom in research practise; researchers sometime have flexible sampling rates or select observations that fit into a hypothesis while others are excluded. With this, science runs into a big problem- impactful research cannot be trusted without caution. He emphasizes that a major part of informative research is not published, such as data that does not support a given hypothesis.The repurcussions of this extend beyond academia and into industry; pharmaceutical companies have mounting reservations concerning scientific results published in peer-reviewed literature as highlighted in the study by Prinz et al. (2011) featured in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. This study found that only 21% of the literature data is corroborated by company in-house results. So, what can we do, on an individual level, to gain back the trust in the reproducibility of our research?

Several tips are proposed:

  • Prior to executing experiments, do a power analysis to estimate the required sample size for your experiments (Researchers can check this website)
  •  Share your science and register your research project before data acquisition or data analysis (at open science framework )
  • Separate a prior hypothesis test and explorative data analysis
  •  Analyse your experiments with an adjusted researcher’s degree of freedom, such as those explained by Simmons et al., Psych Sci (2011)
  • Apply strict statistical criteria
  • Practice open science! Make your data and analysis codes available at https://osf.io/

Beyond that, Dr Kohler described remedies on a structural level for institutions, journals and funding bodies. Finally, he emphasized the need for research data management to systematically organize the data acquisition, storage and processing in metadata according to the FAIR guiding principles.

The second speaker was Dr. Susanne Müller-Knapp from the SGC, who shared an industry-based perspective on open science. SGC is a not-for-profit corporation, funded by a public-private partnership and has the mission to support the discovery of novel drugs. She clarifies that SGC does not provide drugs, which have to be safe, highly selective and effective. Instead, SGC’s core expertise lies in using structural and chemical biology to identify relevant proteins for drug discovery and to create chemical probes and antibodies to investigate the function of these proteins and their targets. The chemical probes, which are small molecule reagents, are potent, have drug-like properties and ask specific biological questions when implemented.  The development of such probes facilitates the making of  powerful reagents that can increase the impact in biomedical research by target validation in cell assays or animal studies. SGC has an on-going open science effort, such as through its support of the chemical probes portal- a web based database of high quality probes that can be accessed by any researcher. 

Susanne describes that SGC sees open science as a solution that encourages innovation, accelerates science, increases reproducibility, reduces the redundancy of scientific findings and projects, engages industry and patients and mobilizes funding. In addition to their ethos to provide open access probes, SGC scientists started to write an open lab notebook about their experiments, methods and results.

As always, after the event, attendees had the chance to network and meet with both speakers and the SIU team over wine and finger foods.