NIH awards grants to launch experimental science rigor initiative

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

August 4, 2022 -- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded five new grants to launch an initiative designed to support education in the principles of rigorous scientific research.

The effort, led by the Office of Research Quality (ORQ) at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), is focused on creating an educational platform containing various training modules covering different aspects of scientific rigor -- which is defined as the strict application of the scientific method to ensure robust, unbiased research.

The Creating an Educational Nexus for Training in Experimental Rigor (CENTER) grant, which will support the building, evaluating, and disseminating of a user-friendly, open-source platform to host educational content, was awarded to Konrad Kording, PhD, professor of neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine.

The other four grants, Materials to Enhance Training in Experimental Rigor (METER), involve projects that will develop the educational materials in collaboration with, and hosted by, CENTER. The topics for the training modules include addressing biases in research; logical fallacies around causality; how to develop hypotheses; designing literature searches; identifying experimental variables; and reducing confounding variables in research.

The recipients of the four METER grants are:

  • Dr. Richard Born and Taralyn Tan, PhD, Harvard Medical School: "Mind the Gap: Addressing 'Missing Pieces' in Neuroscience Curricula to Reinforce Research Rigor"
  • Gundula Bosch, PhD, Johns Hopkins University: "NeuR3o-LOGIC"
  • Michael Gionfriddo, PhD, and Jordan Covvey, PhD, Duquesne University: "Enhancing Experimental Rigor through Education in Evidence Synthesis"
  • Mary Harrington, PhD, Smith College: "Developing Training Materials for Experimental Rigor in Neuroscience"

"A free educational resource that is comprehensive, modular, and adaptable could serve as a 'one-stop shop' for institutions to build courses in experimental rigor based on their individual needs," said Shai Silberberg, PhD, director of the NINDS ORQ.

NINDS decided to launch the Initiative to Improve Education in the Principles of Rigorous Research based on a 2018 survey of institutions receiving training grants from the agency, which found that only five provided a dedicated course related to the principles of rigorous research.

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