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Why Properly Designed Experiments Are Critical for Animal Research, and Advancing Public Health

Good research practices are critical to ensuring rigorous, reproducible, and relevant results. When experiments are designed properly, the results are more likely to be replicated in future studies and relevant for human health. Properly designing experiments means:

  • Thinking about and planning for the appropriate number of animals necessary for the research
  • Understanding the health of the animals and how they are cared for, such as their housing and other environmental factors
  • Clearly explaining, identifying, and sharing the study methods when discussing the research to ensure it can be repeated by others
  • Applying the 3Rs when conducting research to reduce, replace, and refine the use of animals when scientifically appropriate

NIH is committed to ensuring the research it supports is of the highest quality, is efficient, and the results can be explained and understood. This includes ensuring that studies involving animals are rigorous and reproducible. 

NIH and the wider research community is actively working toward identifying, developing, and sharing any and all research methods that improve the quality and transparency of animal research. A group of independent experts have even provided recommendations Link to Non-U.S. Government Site - Click for Disclaimer for NIH to consider going forward.

NIH is actively listening and participating throughout this process.

  • The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke funds Link to Non-U.S. Government Site - Click for Disclaimer the development of educational resources to advance rigor in animal research and build a greater emphasis on rigor at universities around the country. They also held a workshop Link to Non-U.S. Government Site - Click for Disclaimer that brought together a diverse cross-section of individuals who promote rigor and transparency in biomedical research and are invested in catalyzing change.
  • The National Institute on Aging developed a publicly available, searchable, database, called the AlzPED program Link to Non-U.S. Government Site - Click for Disclaimer, to increase the transparency, reproducibility and translatability of preclinical studies of possible treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • NIH also provides many resources for researchers to address rigor in their grant applications. For example, we encourage the use of a free online tool that guides researchers through the design of their experiments, helping to ensure that they use as few animals as possible.  This webinar explains how and why this tool is used.
  • NIH encourages  recipient organizations and researchers to include the ARRIVE Essential 10 (essential elements of study design) in all NIH-supported publications describing vertebrate animal and cephalopod (such as octopus) research. The ARRIVE Essential 10 is a checklist that explains the most basic information to report in a scientific paper that includes animal research, which will help readers assess the reliability of the findings. You can watch this webinar to learn more. 

NIH will continue to devise strategies that minimize the numbers of animals needed in NIH-supported studies, while remaining committed to promoting rigorous and transparent research in all areas of science. 

Related NIH leadership statements: