Uniquely identifying the reagents used in experiments is crucial so that anyone who wants to repeat the experiment can use precisely the same reagents reported in the published literature, making research findings reproducible. However, as Vasilevsky et al. noted, the traditional scientific research reporting practices often do not provide enough information about used resources, and researchers lack the ability to distinctively identify experimental reagents. As a result, research reproducibility suffers and a simple search query such as “What studies have used the antibody of my interest?” produces unsatisfactory results.
To address this issue, Research Resource Identifiers (RRIDs) were created. RRIDs are persistent unique identifiers assigned to biological resources, such as antibodies, plasmids, model organisms, cell lines, and software tools. Though catalog numbers and vendors are typically cited, these sometimes change over time. RRIDs never change; the RRID initiative is designed to assist researchers in sufficiently citing these resources in published literature.
The RRID syntax includes an accession number, assigned by an authoritative database, with a source prefix. For example, in RRID:AB_2298772 (for an antibody), the “AB” prefix indicates that the number was provided by the Antibody Registry. A research resource citation contains an RRID along with additional recommended metadata, such as the vendor and catalog number. For example, a search of the RRID Portal for a polyclonal antibody against tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), catalog # AB1542, yields a result showing that the resource citation (with RRID) is “Millipore Cat# AB1542, RRID:AB_90755.” Because RRIDs are machine-readable and consistent across publishers and journals, they can be efficiently used as a tracking tool to gauge resource usage in research. Using the same example, a search for RRID:AB_90755 provides a Resource Usage Report of where it has been mentioned in open access literature. (To view the usage report, click on the hyperlinked antibody name on the search results page to access the Resource Summary Report; then click on “View full usage report” in the Usage and Citation Metrics section.)
RRIDs have been available to add to publications since 2014, but uptake in using them has been slow. However, user-friendly tools are currently available to assist researchers in freely finding and generating RRIDs for biological resources. The RRID Portal (powered by SciCrunch) is organized by category and can be searched using keywords. SciScore, a recently developed automated tool, is also handy while writing manuscripts. Researchers can upload the methods section of their manuscript to the SciScore server; it checks for the presence and correctness of RRIDs, detects sentences with missing RRIDs, and even suggests RRIDs. Researchers signing up with their ORCID ID can receive ten free reports. (HSLS provides guidance on creating an ORCID ID.)
For more information on RRIDs, please Ask a MolBio Specialist.