Well, the same behavior applies with buying antibodies. We look to publications like “reviews,” to ensure antibodies have produced reliable data in similar experimental contexts.
While sifting through publications is the gold standard for finding antibodies, however, there are some limitations. In this article, I’d like to outline these limitations and show how independent antibody reviews could address them.
1. Latency Between Data Generation and Publication
Problem: It takes an average of 9 months from manuscript submission to publication. This delay in data availability due to the (essential) peer-review process could lead other labs to waste valuable resources testing an antibody that has already been validated.
Solution: The submission of independent reviews immediately following successful data generation would ensure that data about successful antibody usage was shared within the research community without delay.
2. Only Positive Results Are Published
Problem: For every beautiful, sharp and crisp IF image, there were probably 2-3 antibodies that were tested and didn’t work. However, such negative data are usually never published and are forever hidden in the hard drive of a lab computer.
Solution: Independent reviews can capture cases where antibodies didn’t work, to help other scientists make more informed decisions—the same way we avoid restaurants with horrific reviews.
3. Validation Data May Not Be Shown
Problem: Most labs have validated antibodies targeting their protein of interest through knock-out or knock-down experiments. Yet the validation data are not always included in the publication because it’s “not part of the story,” and are often only known to the reviewers and lab members.
Solution: The sharing of antibody validation data from every lab through reviews would generate an invaluable database of validated antibodies.
4. Limited Space for Detailed Protocol
Problem: Many journals have word limits for their publications, which in turn caps how much protocol detail you can put into the Materials & Methods. And as we all know, to conduct a successful experiment, even the tiniest detail matters.
Solution: Unbound by editorial constraints, in each antibody review full experimental protocols could be submitted to facilitate reproducibility.
5. Some Data Are Locked Behind Paywall
Problem: Approximately 76% of publications are behind paywall, and thus, the majority of published antibody usage data are not available to all scientists.
Solution: The adoption of independent reviews aligns with the recent movement towards open science, and ensures that every successful usage of antibodies is known to the entire research community.
In fact, we feel so strongly about independent antibody reviews that we’ve actually built them into BenchSci.
At BenchSci, our goal is to drive discovery by ending reagent failure. Our machine-learning technology analyzes open- and closed-access publications and presents published figures with actionable insights. At the same time, we also recognize the limitations discussed in this article, which is why we also incorporated independent antibody reviews into the platform.
With the recent emphasis on research rigor and reproducibility by the NIH, I would like to advocate for the submission of independent antibody reviews to facilitate a collective effort to authenticate key biological resources, which, in turn, would benefit the research community as a whole. If you agree, consider signing up for BenchSci free and contributing reviews.