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Identification key to reproducibility
May 2016
by Zack Anchors  |  Email the author
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SAN DIEGO—A project aimed at establishing a single, standard format to identify all antibodies has a new ally: ImmunoStar, a supplier of primary antibodies for neuroscience research. The Hudson, Wis.-based company is one of the first antibody manufacturers to fully sign on to the Antibody Registry’s effort to improve identifiability and reproducibility in research papers by attaching a unique and persistent code to each antibody.
 
The Antibody Registry assigns a unique and persistent identifier called an Research Resource Identifier (RRID) to each antibody so that it can be referenced within publications. ImmunoStar has committed to attaching RRIDs to each of its antibodies to ensure those antibodies can be traced and identified when they are used in research. For example, ImmunoStar’s 5-HT (Serotonin) Rabbit Antibody #20080 is identified as RRID:AB_572263.
 
The registry is one facet of a broader NIH-funded project launched in 2014 called the Resource Identification Initiative (RII). The program is pushing for the use of RRIDs for citations of antibodies as well as for two other categories of research resources: model organisms and tools, including software and databases.
 
Anita Bandrowski, specialist at the University of California, San Diego, and group leader of RII, says the goal of the project is to partner with research journals and vendors to attach RRIDs to as many research resources as possible. “It works like a social security number,” she says. “RRIDs allow us to track a resource even if the company the produced it changes name or if the product changes hands.”
 
The potential for RRIDs to effectively track antibodies regardless of company renaming and reselling is a main reason for ImmunoStar’s support of the registry. ImmunoStar has changed its name during its 35-year history and has a product line that includes numerous antibodies that were previously associated with other company names.
 
RII is also intended to tackle other widely recognized problems in biomedical research stemming from the lack of consistent and detailed citations. It is often difficult to identify which resources were used in a given study, a challenge that undermines the reproducibility of the research and that prevents others from reusing the same resource. RII cites as an example of the problem infrequent reporting of the catalog numbers for antibody reagents and the omission of the version numbers for software programs used for data analysis.
 
The use of RRIDs appears to be gaining ground. Thousands of articles using RRIDs can be found in research databases and 100 journals have agreed to encourage authors to use them. “Not all the participating journals are enforcing at the same level, but an increasing number are asking authors to use them,” says Bandrowski. “The more partners we can get on board—both on the manufacturers side and the journal side—the more valuable the whole project becomes for everyone involved, including the antibody companies, which are very interested in research validating or invalidating their products.”
 
Bandrowski tells DDNews that she anticipates many more antibody manufacturers to begin actively supporting the use of RRIDs as they learn more about the advantages. She cited BioLegend, the San Diego-based antibody and reagent manufacturer, as one company that will soon be joining ImmunoStar as a fully participating vendor.
 
One of the first researchers to include RRIDs in published research was Dorota Skowronska-Krawczyk with the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of California, San Diego. She also says she uses the registry when searching for new antibodies to use in her research. “It gives me confidence that people are using [the antibody] and citing it,” she explained in a press release issued by ImmunoStar.
 
RRIDs are designed to be convenient and easy to use for both authors and those trying to identify cited resources. RII has created an online Resource Identification Portal that provides access to a range of databases, including The Antibody Registry. When a researcher finds the resource they need to cite, they can click on a button that enables the proper citation to be inserted into their paper. They also have the ability to create an RRID for a new resource using the portal.
 
Code: E051609

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