Reproducibility is one of the holy grails of effective, open biomedical literature. But too often resources (e.g. model organisms, software, antibodies) are not reported with sufficient detail to ensure others can replicate or expand upon the results. Today sees PLOS Biology and PLOS Genetics linking in with an exciting pilot study using the principles set out by a Force11 group, the Research Resource Identification Initiative (#RII). Through the use of unique Resource Identifiers (RRIDs), authors will be able to cite the resources that they use in their manuscripts. This initiative will be completely optional for PLOS authors. We strongly encourage our PLOS Biology and PLOS Genetics authors to use these RRIDs though wherever possible to identify their model organisms, antibodies or tools; use standard RRIDs that exist in the RRID portal, or create new ones as needed if there isn’t one already. You then simply add your RRIDs to the text of your manuscript; at their first mention (usually the materials and methods section) and we encourage that you add a separate section at the end of the manuscript if you have a longer list of accession numbers. Information can now be found on RRIDs here for PLOS Biology and here for PLOS Genetics
How exactly do RRIDs work? The Resource Identification Initiative has three criteria for RRIDs:
- Machine readable
- Free to generate and access
- Consistent across publishers and journals
Right now the feasibility of the system is being tested using three categories of resources – model organisms (mice, zebrafish, and flies), antibodies and tools (i.e. software and databases). Finding or creating the appropriate RRID for your resource couldn’t be easier. A Resource Identification Portal has been created where you can search across different databases, such as The Antibody Registry. Once you have found your resource, you can use a “Cite this” button to be shown the proper citation to insert into your manuscript. For example: Model organism: “Subjects in this study were Fgf9Eks/Fgf9+ mice (RRID: MGI:3840442)”.
What if my resource doesn’t exist in the database? The Resource Identification Portal allows you to make new entries using the “Add a Resource” option on their homepage. This makes it very easy to generate a new RRID.
The Research Identification Initiative so far: This project was an outcome of a meeting held at NIH on June 26th, 2013. A diverse range of journals and publishers are on board with the project – for example Journal of Neuroscience, F1000 Research, Peer J, Nature and Mendeley. By the end of 2014, over 200 papers contained RRIDs. Publications currently reporting RRIDs can be found in Google Scholar or PubMed.
If you’re wondering what is the value? Imagine that you’re evaluating what antibody to use, if you can easily track all papers that have used various antibodies previously, you can assess how well the antibody works in others’ hands in different scenarios, and thus be better able to choose which one to use for your study. Or, if you have generated an antibody and made it freely available, you’ll be able to see how frequently it is used by others, and to gain proper recognition via RRID citations for your materials.
We hope that this initiative is successful in helping to promote reproducible science. The possible benefits to authors also seem great – including saving time looking for reagents and tools and eventually being able to aggregate and compare findings on a particular animal model.