Taking the quality of biomedical research to a whole new level

Professor John Ioannidis of Stanford University comes to Berlin as an Einstein BIH Visiting Fellow

He is among the world’s most famous researchers: John Ioannidis of Stanford University published a paper in 2005 that was provocatively titled ‟Why most published research findings are false.” Ioannidis has now come to the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) as an Einstein BIH Visiting Fellow at the BIH QUEST Center – funded by Stiftung Charité and the Einstein Foundation Berlin ‒ to establish the Meta-Research Innovation Center Berlin (METRIC-Berlin), the European “sister” of the Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford (METRICS). Together, METRIC-Berlin and the BIH QUEST Center seek to take the quality of biomedical research at the BIH and Charité ‒ and also in Berlin and beyond – to a whole new level.


German Research Minister Anja Karliczek expressed her delight that the BIH was hosting the internationally respected guest research: “Medical research findings need to be high quality, reliable, and clinically viable so that new therapies and drugs can benefit patients quicker. METRIC-Berlin will enable Professor John Ioannidis to further advance his initiative on quality assurance in medical research. He will thus make an important contribution to improving the translation of findings. I am pleased that the Berlin Institute of Health can welcome Professor John Ioannidis as an Einstein Visiting Fellow. This proves again that Germany is a leading location for research and has a very strong international appeal. I wish Professor John Ioannidis and his colleagues at the Berlin Institute of Health great success!”

John Ioannidis will initially serve for three years as an Einstein BIH Visiting Fellow at the BIH Institute of Health. “We want to find out what works best – and what doesn’t work – in scientific research,” is how Ioannidis outlines his goal for METRIC-Berlin. METRIC-Berlin’s researchers – in collaboration with their colleagues from the BIH QUEST Center – will take a close look at the scientific process itself: What research methods are used? How are results obtained, verified, and published? How are researchers appraised, and what incentives and rewards exist in the scientific system? “In this way, we want to produce recommendations that increase the effectiveness and value of research – and thus science’s importance to society,” explains Ioannidis.

Professor Axel Radlach Pries, interim Chairman of the BIH Executive Board and Dean of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, welcomes the addition to the BIH: “The BIH’s mission is translation – in other words, the transfer of basic research findings into clinical practice. The findings must be high quality to successfully move research from the lab to patients. Through the support of METRIC-Berlin, going forward we will be able to promote the achievement of research quality in the best possible way. Professor Karl Max Einhäupl, Chairman of the Executive Board of Charité, concurs: “The quality of medical research is already in many cases outstanding, but there is still need for improvement in other aspects. John Ioannidis’s exceptional research has gotten an unparalleled response internationally.” Professor Martin Lohse, Scientific Director of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC), is also pleased to have Ioannidis come to Berlin: “The credibility and reliability of science is essential to basic researchers like us. We are therefore looking forward to this opportunity to focus attention on the quality assurance that our accomplishments require.”

Stiftung Charité has since 2014 been supporting international exchange at the BIH through several programs of its Johanna Quandt Private Excellence Initiative. Nineteen Einstein BIH Visiting Fellows have come to Berlin since the BIH’s founding, including prominent scientists such as Nobel Prize winners Thomas Südhof, Edvard Ingjald Moser, and Brian Kobilka. Stiftung Charité, together with the Einstein Foundation, funds the Einstein BIH Visiting Fellows. Professor E. Jürgen Zöllner, Chairman of Stiftung Charité, welcomed John Ioannidis to Berlin: “Stiftung Charité is delighted to have John Ioannidis serve as the new Einstein BIH Visiting Fellow in Berlin. He is indeed the most important advocate in the drive to fundamentally and permanently improve research practices and performance culture in biomedicine.” Professor Günter Stock, Chairman of Einstein Stiftung Berlin, emphasized that “with the arrival of John Ioannidis and the start of METRICS Berlin the scientific region of Berlin will take a pioneering role besides Stanford regarding to securing quality and further developing biomedical research.”

“We are very thankful to the Einstein Foundation and Stiftung Charité for the opportunity to advance our research in Berlin in collaboration with the BIH QUEST Center,” John Ioannidis said at the press conference. In his frequently quoted paper, John Ioannidis explains that many spectacular research findings – especially findings in biomedical research – are not reproducible. This could be the result of insufficient samples, poor study design, preconceived hypotheses, or incorrect interpretations. “In the last few years much has improved in biomedical research,” said Ioannidis. “For example, scientific journals are paying closer attention to make sure submitted work meets certain quality criteria. And funding organizations are also supporting projects that check the findings of other researchers. But there is still a lot to do before we achieve our goal of ensuring that most research findings are correct!”

Ioannidis’s host is Professor Ulrich Dirnagl, head of the Department of Experimental Neurology at Charité and founder of the BIH QUEST Center, whose work is also dedicated to increasing the quality and thus the benefits of biomedical research. QUEST is an acronym that stands for Quality, Ethics, Open Science, and Translation. “John Ioannidis is one of the founding fathers of, and leading researchers in, an entire scientific discipline called meta-research,” Dirnagl stressed. “Meta-research holds the key to the analysis of flaws in published research, but also of successful research models and best scientific practices. It provides the scientific basis for measures with which we can further improve research at the BIH for the benefit of our patients. We are thrilled that, thanks to having John as an Einstein BIH Visiting Fellow and being able to work with his research team at METRIC-Berlin, we can now do this in a way that is entirely novel and more internationally visible.”