Science can be an extremely challenging field. It involves work experimentation that can take mere seconds all the way to entire lifetimes. It’s performed by dedicated and exceptionally skilled scientists. Even so, the process can be intricate. Some of the complications facing scientists today include the need to develop their own assessment methods, lacking key information about how published research was conducted, and above all, inadequate sharing of data with the wider scientific community.
INTERVALS is an initiative started by PMI with the goal of addressing some of these issues. It is a public scientific information hub where third-party scientists from academia and industry are invited to publish their research alongside that of PMI’s.
We initiated the creation of INTERVALS to build an online platform enabling independent scientific collaboration and data analysis by proactively sharing protocols, tools and data from assessment studies. The aim is to transparently share the work of researchers on the scientific assessment of products positioned in the interval between continuous cigarette smoking and smoking cessation. We hope that this will simplify and encourage an impartial examination of evidence.
One of INTERVALS’s most important goals is to make the science surrounding our industry as transparent as possible. We want the platform to become a wide-ranging data source so that users can browse by product, study, diseases and pathways or endpoints, in relation to study design, methods and results from preclinical as well as clinical studies. We want our research to be challenged, repeated, and have its accuracy confirmed. This also means disclosing potential conflicts of interest while properly crediting and documenting the contributions of all researchers involved in a project. A key part of transparency is annotating the data being shared in a way that allows its reuse and preparing it in a format that allows interoperability. This means raw scientific data can be reanalyzed and compared to other datasets in the database.
Reproducibility is another important aspect of any scientific assessment. Experiment results must be replicated to ensure the science is correct. As pointed out by C. Glen Begley and associates, part of the problem with some studies is that there are no guidelines on how data should be reported. In some cases, results may be omitted from the reporting of studies, giving only a partial view of the conducted experiment. Another issue with reproducibility is creating the incentive for scientists and researchers to take the effort to reproduce someone else’s work in order to get the same result. INTERVALS intends to make a difference by working with the industry, scientists, sponsors and regulatory agencies, to foster the development of better practice. Reproducibility in our industry is of paramount importance to ensure scientific credibility and robustness of the scientific evidence supporting Tobacco Harm Reduction.
Building trust and best practices when it comes to Tobacco Harm Reduction could have a huge impact on society.
While we can’t change the past, it is our role to make every effort so that the future is brighter. Scientists are required to constantly strive to improve their work and ask themselves if there is a better way of doing things. Research and knowledge can transform the world and we have to transform with it. Stephanie Boue, Manager of Scientific Transparency and Verification, said ‘Building trust and best practices when it comes to Tobacco Harm Reduction could have a huge impact on society.’ Thanks to projects like INTERVALS we’re able to continue our journey towards actionable change for the better.