For the past decade, biomedical researchers have worried that too many animal experiments can’t be repeated in other labs, or that a potential treatment that doesn’t work when tested in humans turns out to be based on flawed animal research. To address those problems, last week a working group of federal and academic experts advising the National Institutes of Health released ideas about how to shore up the rigor, transparency, and clinical relevance of NIH-funded animal research.
The group’s recommendations take aim at studies using vertebrates and cephalopods, such as squid and octopuses. They include having NIH add a page to its current 12-page grant application form that would ask researchers to describe study details, such as the number of animals they will use and plans for data analysis. Peer reviewers with statistics expertise would then assess the plan.
The panel’s 11 June report also recommends funding statistics training for animal researchers, asking scientists to explain their choice of animal model, boosting support for research on large animals, and encouraging researchers to record and study how factors in animal care—such as temperature, light levels, and an animal’s gut microbes—can sway experimental results.