Washington Update

NIH Advisory Committee to the Director Receives Update on Animal Research

By: Naomi Charalambakis
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
On June 9, the first day of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) two-day meeting, Michael Lauer, MD, NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research, provided an update on the agency’s efforts to enhance rigor, transparency, and translatability in animal research. The update comes one year after the NIH ACD Working Group of the same name issued its final report and recommendations. 

Lauer informed ACD members that NIH conducted a detailed review of the working group’s recommendations, which is comprised of five themes: 
  • Improve Study Design and Analytic Rigor; 
  • Address Bias, Incomplete Reporting, and Questionable Research Practices;
  • Improve Relevance and Use of Animal Models; 
  • Improve Methodologic and Results Reporting; and 
  • Measure and Evaluate Effectiveness and Costs. 
Additionally, Lauer noted that while the NIH Office of Extramural Research will take the lead in implementing the recommendations, several NIH offices are engaged in this effort given the cross-cutting impacts related to improving animal research rigor and reproducibility. 

To facilitate next steps, NIH has developed short, intermediate, and long-term implementation plans. Short-term steps include publishing concept clearances for new funding initiatives related to improving rigor, reproducibility, and translatability of animal research, as most recently proposed during the May Council of Councils meeting. Intermediate plans include organizing workshops through the NIH Office of Research Infrastructure Programs, including one on animal models and resources for COVID-19 research and another workshop on managing extrinsic factors to enhance research rigor and reproducibility. Acknowledging the working group’s recommendation to strengthen its public outreach and education efforts (see Recommendation 3.5 of the final report), NIH also plans to partner with the National Academies Institute of Laboratory Animal Research to host a workshop focused on effective communication with the general public about animal research.

Lauer concluded his remarks by informing ACD members about potential future, long-term strategies. These include issuing a Guide notice to encourage the use of the Animal Research Reporting of In Vivo Experiments (ARRIVE) guidelines when reporting results of NIH-funded animal research, consistent with the requirements of several scientific journals. Another strategy includes offering a nonmonetary prize to highlight exemplary work in experimental design and analysis in animal research. 

As implementation continues, NIH plans to provide a more detailed update at the December meeting.