HEC Paris, University of Orléans, and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) are launching cascad, Certification Agency for Scientific Code and Data, the world’s first public laboratory specialized in the certification of the reproducibility of scientific research (www.cascad.tech). A non-profit certification agency, cascad will allow researchers to signal the reproducibility of their research. The public laboratory has been featured in an article published in Science on July 12.
Scientists often build upon past research. However, several recent studies show that researchers struggle to reproduce published results. This situation has important repercussions on the academic world, and ultimately society, as it stalls overall scientific progress.
HEC Paris Professor and cascad co-founder, Christophe Pérignon says that “two main reasons explain the low reproducibility rate: computer code and data shared by researchers are not systematically checked and many researchers use confidential data, which cannot be publicly shared.”
For example, most of the economics research published today is of an empirical and computational nature as they heavily depend on computer data analyses. While only 10% of research articles on economics were of an empirical nature in the 1970s, today the number is up to over 75%.
These numbers show the urgency to finding a solution to the issue of reproducibility. cascad has designed a certification process to warrant that the results reported in a scientific publication can be reproduced using the computer code and the data used by the authors of this publication.
In a paper just published in Science, it is shown that the cascad certification can be used even when researchers use confidential data, such as sensitive information on individuals’ income, taxes or health. Such data can only be analyzed by accredited researchers and within a secure computing environment.
For the authors, the biggest challenge to the success of cascad will be building trust. Trust by data producers makes the process feasible, and trust by academic journals makes the process useful and worthwhile. “To build trust and increase credibility, cascad implements a transparent and detailed certification process. The next step for us is to convince the researchers and journals.” says Prof. Pérignon.
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