In October 2013, Lawrence Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., Principal Deputy Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), introduced a new NIH initiative aimed at improving research reproducibility and transparency. The effort is a response to widespread news highlighting the importance of unbiased experiments and reproducible results. Dr. Tabak called for broad public participation in the initiative.
Since then, much has progressed with the initiative. In January 2014, NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., and Dr. Tabak published a commentary in Nature describing how the NIH planned to address the issue, and how the agency would engage with the scientific community at large. More recently, the NIH launched a new web portal devoted to describing NIH efforts that are currently underway. The web portal includes principles and guidelines for reporting preclinical research that are intended to enhance rigor and further support research that is reproducible, robust and transparent. These principles were developed with input collected during a June 2014 workshop hosted by the NIH and attended by representatives from the Nature Publishing Group and Science, and from more than 30 basic and preclinical journals.
To raise awareness of the initiative and solicit feedback, the NIH has engaged with the scientific community in multiple ways. Several workshops have been held with NIH intramural and extramural colleagues to discuss reproducibility of data collection and analysis. The workshops aimed to educate the community about advanced scientific technologies and what they can accomplish, and the kinds of reproducibility problems that can arise when using them. The first workshop, held on November 24, 2014, addressed modern technologies in cell biology. The second workshop, held on March 13, 2015, looked at modern technologies in structural biology. If you missed the workshops, they were both recorded and are available on the NIH videocast website, under past events. A third workshop covering modern genome technologies is scheduled for June 4, 2015. These and other meetings and workshops are described here.
The new web portal also includes training modules meant to stimulate conversation among the scientific community. These modules address methodological issues such as lack of transparency or inadequate reporting of details; blinding and randomization; biological and technical replication; and sample size, outliers and exclusion criteria. I encourage you to watch them and discuss with your colleagues.
The NIH and the NIAMS have a keen interest in this issue, and we will continue to engage with the biomedical research community through multiple channels to keep the conversation going. I encourage you to visit the new rigor and reproducibility web portal and to participate in the process.