Washington Update

FASEB Commends NIH Final Report on Animal Research

By: Naomi Charalambakis
Thursday, August 12, 2021

On August 4, FASEB submitted comments to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) leadership encouraging the agency to implement recommendations offered by the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) Working Group on Enhancing Rigor, Transparency, and Translatability in Animal Research. These recommendations comprise the Working Group’s final report and were presented at the June ACD meeting. Next steps and implementation of the Working Group’s proposed recommendations are now subject to the NIH Office of the Director’s final approval.

In its comments, FASEB applauded NIH for prioritizing rigor and reproducibility in animal studies and highlighted various recommendations supported by FASEB stakeholders. For example, FASEB supports the Working Group’s proposal to add a single page to the Research Strategy section of grant applications for investigators to specifically address key elements of experimental design. To streamline this effort, FASEB encouraged NIH to collaborate with the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) and its Advisory Council to minimize administrative burden and ensure the new requirements align with the CSR’s ongoing efforts to simplify peer review. Additional recommendations in the final report receiving FASEB’s support included strengthening statistical analysis training, enhancing documentation of animal environmental data, and championing the value of large animal research.

The letter also urged NIH to consider potential unintended consequences for a few of the Working Group’s suggestions, particularly those that affect the agency’s peer review process. For instance, FASEB cautioned against the Working Group’s recommendation to employ a post-peer review statistical panel for studies receiving the highest scores, as this approach could unnecessarily delay the peer review process and postpone allocation of research funds. Another recommendation from the Working Group involved establishing an NIH task force on nonanimal methods. For this effort, FASEB emphasized that NIH should hold nonanimal techniques to the same standards as animal studies—specifically with respect to rigor, reproducibility, and translatability—and ensure the task force is comprised of the appropriate veterinary and comparative biology expertise.