Identifying and Overcoming Threats to Reproducibility, Replicability, Robustness, and Generalizability in Microbiome Research

ABSTRACT

The “reproducibility crisis” in science affects microbiology as much as any other area of inquiry, and microbiologists have long struggled to make their research reproducible. We need to respect that ensuring that our methods and results are sufficiently transparent is difficult. This difficulty is compounded in interdisciplinary fields such as microbiome research. There are many reasons why a researcher is unable to reproduce a previous result, and even if a result is reproducible, it may not be correct. Furthermore, failures to reproduce previous results have much to teach us about the scientific process and microbial life itself. This Perspective delineates a framework for identifying and overcoming threats to reproducibility, replicability, robustness, and generalizability of microbiome research. Instead of seeing signs of a crisis in others’ work, we need to appreciate the technical and social difficulties that limit reproducibility in the work of others as well as our own.

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