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NIH Tackles Reproducibility in Research at Council of Councils Meeting

September 12, 2014—At its Sept. 5 meeting, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Council of Councils, comprised of individual members from other NIH institute and center (IC) advisory councils, heard updates on the agency’s plans to address reproducibility and transparency of biomedical research findings. First announced in January, NIH plans to address growing concerns within the scientific community and industry that some published research findings from NIH-sponsored research could not be replicated.

James Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI) within the NIH Office of the Director, discussed several activities and pilots at NIH ICs to enhance reproducibility.  In June, a meeting with leading journal editors produced a set of principles and guidelines which journals could adopt to improve the reproducibility of published work. A similar workshop to identify common opportunity areas with industry is in the planning process. NIH is also developing training resources on experimental design and data interpretation considerations, which they expect to release by the end of 2014.

Individual ICs also are developing pilot programs they hope will facilitate the production of reproducible data, including new funding for replication studies, the creation of reviewer checklists for standards and statistics, and the reduction of “perverse incentives” by implementing extended award cycles. 

NIH Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak, D.D.S, Ph.D, outlined another major initiative to enhance reproducibility: the launch of an effort to study and report on the effect of sex differences in preclinical research. There is currently a large gap in our knowledge of sex-specific differences, due to a lack of consideration during biomedical experiments, and an over-reliance on male animal models.

As part of a new policy, the NIH will require a deliberate approach to considering sex in cell and animal models to make certain that biological differences between males and females are taken into account across the spectrum from basic to clinical and translational research. NIH plans to roll out additional policies on this issue in a phased approach beginning in October of this year. Updates can be found on the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health website.

Other items discussed at the meeting include the necessity of long-term, stable funding for biomedical research, as well as current strategies within the NIH to offer more sustained support to scientists and particularly to facilitate the pathway to independence for new investigators. A video of the event as well as an agenda and presentations are available on the NIH website.

The next Council of Councils meeting will be held at the NIH on Jan. 30, 2015.


Anurupa Dev, Ph.D.
Lead Specialist, Science Policy
Telephone: 202-862-6048

Stephen Heinig
Director, Science Policy
Telephone: 202-828-0488


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