Calibrating the scientific ecosystem through meta-research


Whilst some scientists study insects, molecules, brains, or clouds, other scientists study science itself. Meta-research, or “research-on-research”, is a burgeoning discipline that investigates efficiency, quality, and bias in the scientific ecosystem, topics that have become especially relevant amid widespread concerns about the credibility of the scientific literature. Meta-research may help calibrate the scientific ecosystem towards higher standards by providing empirical evidence that informs the iterative generation and refinement of reform initiatives. We introduce a translational framework that involves (1) identifying problems; (2) investigating problems; (3) developing solutions; and (4) evaluating solutions. In each of these areas, we review key meta-research endeavors and discuss several examples of prior and ongoing work. The scientific ecosystem is perpetually evolving; the discipline of meta-research presents an opportunity to use empirical evidence to guide its development and maximize its potential.