Welcome to the Rigorous Reproducible Responsible Research Integrity at UF (R4I@UF) website!  Please visit each month for a new case that may be used as a framework for a brief conversation about best research practices in your lab meeting, research conference, journal club, or any research meeting.

Check out the The Research Roundtable podcast!

Summer 2023 Rigor and Reproducibility Seminar

Friday, June 9, 12:00 noon

Practical reproducibility: a few steps that will make your paper better

Anita Bandrowski, PhD

Specialist, Department of Neurosciences, University of California San Diego
Founder and CEO, SciCrunch
Co-Founder and lead, RRID Initiative
Berlin Institute of Health Visiting Professor, funded by Stiftung Charité

Jointly hosted by the UF Interdisciplinary T32 in Movement Disorders and the UF Libraries

Please pre-register for this Zoom seminar at:

Recordings for past talks in this series can be found at https://uf-repro.github.io/movementdisorders-seminar/ 

Case of the Month – May 2023 – Competition and Reproducibility

As scientists, we hold a position of responsibility in society based on specialized knowledge we have and seek to expand. This responsibility extends across scientific fields, but for biomedical scientists entrusted with taxpayer’s dollars given in the hope that our research will eventually improve global health, there is a special duty to the broader society. This year’s ethics cases address multiple aspects of this responsibility. These range from recognizing and dealing responsibly with potentially hazardous materials, to promoting sound, reproducible research and communicating it effectively to both the public and research community. Scientists feel pressure from inside –competition within and between labs — as well as from outside –citizens expecting their investment in science to rapidly translate into better treatments and health. While competition and pressure fuel innovation, they can also lead to short-sighted decisions to cut corners in order to achieve career goals and secure ongoing funding. In labs, cutting corners can lead to problems with reproducibility. In society, especially in the current social media environment with news constantly going “viral”, the pressure to act on preliminary, poorly validated or clinically unproven new results can be misleading, counterproductive and even dangerous.
The anti-vaccine movement and its claims of causation in autism provides a good example of this danger.
As you discuss this month’s case, consider what pressures you may be experiencing in your own work and how you can maintain high quality standards. Do not lose sight of the broader impact your work might have on society, even if you are not involved in clinical research. Think about what you can do to make the consequences of your research relevant and effectively communicated to the public.

Dr. Park is a tenure-track investigator searching for a novel method to de-differentiate cells from adult tissues to produce stem cell lines that might be used in organ regeneration. At his third-year tenure-track review, the committee expresses a concern that he has no recent high-impact publications.
Part 1
Dr. Park presents his postdoctoral fellows, Drs. Sanchez and Aero, a list of the ten most-promising chemicals and growth factors he has identified for further testing. As motivation, he reminds them that whoever successfully publishes such a breakthrough approach will have a great career. After the initial screening indicates that a derivative of trichostatin A is the most promising compound, Dr. Park assigns both fellows to work on this chemical separately, using the same commercially available cell line. At first, the fellows get along collegially and have some productive discussions about how to design their experiments, but they have a falling out when Dr. Sanchez suggests that they collaborate on both projects and share first-author status.
After four months of independent, intense (and secretive) experimentation by the two postdocs, Dr. Aero presents at a lab meeting beautiful preliminary results demonstrating that incubating isolated adult cells with the compound produces de-differentiation and rapid cell proliferation, and that removal of the drug results in fully functional re-differentiation. Dr. Sanchez, however, can show only a weak, seemingly toxic response to the drug, and she wonders to herself whether Dr. Aero may have sabotaged her experiments. She notices that both her experimental and control cells have abnormally high death rates and suspects that someone is tampering with her experiments. One morning she discovers that her incubator was set at 40C, and that the set points had also been altered so as not to trigger the alarm when the temperature exceeded 37.5C (36-37C is the optimal temperature for growing these cells).


  1. Should the head of a lab put two trainees on the same project? What are the advantages and
  2. What can or should Dr. Sanchez do if she suspects that her work has been tampered with? Should she
    talk to Dr. Park about this?
  3. What should Dr. Park do if Dr. Sanchez claims that her work has been sabotaged?
  4. Is tampering with an experiment unethical? Does it fit the definition of research misconduct?
  5. If the group is successful in discovering an agent that can induce de-differentiation, this discovery could
    be patentable and could have significant economic value. Should they pursue a patent prior to making
    any decisions regarding publication?

Part 2
After Dr. Park warns the fellows not to sabotage each other’s experiments, Dr. Sanchez is also able to
demonstrate that the drug produces de-differentiation, but the effect size is only 50% of Dr. Aero’s experiments. He asks them to both repeat their experiments and they both obtain results which are similar to those they obtained earlier. Dr. Park decides that the group has successfully replicated the experiments, and they submit a paper to a high impact journal reporting Dr. Aero’s impressive findings. The paper lists Dr. Aero as the first author, followed by Dr. Sanchez, two graduate students, and Dr. Park. The paper does not include data from Dr. Sanchez’s experiments and only reports data from Dr. Aero’s two experiments. It says that the group has replicated his findings, with data available upon request.


  1. Does Dr. Sanchez’ experiment constitute a successful replication of Dr. Aero’s work?
  2. Should they have reported the results of both experiments?
  3. Should they have attempted to determine why Dr. Sanchez’ experiments consistently had a much
    smaller effect size than Dr. Aero’s? What factors could lead to different outcomes in such experiments?
  4. Is failure to report Dr. Sanchez’s results data falsification?

This case scenario is from the NIH web page “Research Cases for Use by the NIH Community“.

This website is a service of UF Research Integrity, Security & Compliance and the RCR on Campusworking group. We believe that research integrity is not achieved by simply taking an RCR course and “checking the box” that training is done. Our vision is to maintain a research culture in our everyday lives as UF researchers and research trainees in which we naturally follow best practices to ensure that the research we do is responsible, rigorous, and reproducible.

To submit a “Case of the Month” for the R4I@UF website, please contact Wayne T. McCormack, PhD (mccormac at ufl.edu).