Learn More About Addressing Scientific Rigor and Transparency in Your NIH Grant Applications


NIH now requires most research grant applications and most mentored career development award applications to address four areas related to scientific rigor and transparency. We’ve recently updated our frequently asked questions to address common queries ranging from whether the policy applies to your submission, to how much detail to include in addressing each of the four focus areas, such as scientific premise. As you’re developing your application, be sure to check out the FAQs if you’re looking for additional clarity on how NIH’s rigor and reproducibility policies apply to your application.

In case you missed it, in January, Dr. Mike Lauer, NIH deputy director for extramural research, published Open Mike blog posts on each of the four focus areas:

These posts, and many other resources, are linked from the grants.nih.gov page on scientific rigor and transparency.


  1. The new section of Rigor and authentication demands potentially many experiments that need to be included. If the NIH is serious about this section, the base budget obviously needs to be adjusted or the experiments that are proposed need to be cut down dramatically. For example, if you need to include both sexes in a large animal experiment, your animals cost have just doubled. Authenticating reagents you have received from other labs will cost money, resources and time, which will “eat” into the scope of any grant. My concern is that reviewers are not ready to factor these additional cost in when it comes to judging the scope of an application. Likewise, applicants are not ready to account for the extra cost and go outside the modular budget. In addition, as grants cut get frequently anyway, guess what a researcher who has a “hot idea” that gives a hot paper cuts first, when it comes to experiments? yep, authenticating reagents and re-running experiments with the “other sex”. As long as the NIH does not follow up with the new rules they impose with more resources (aka increasing the modular budget, or not cutting the timeline of grants), this is all just more work and lip service to something that is doomed to fail from the get go. I fear that, while the intention of the rigor and authentication page is certainly a valid one that needs to be addressed, the execution is not based in reality. Grants will effectively become not feasible and over ambitious, budgets will not cover the cost of the grant and without a follow up and a real incentive for doing the extra work that is not publishable in itself, the whole effort will just end up being extra work in the already time consuming and mostly fruitless grant writing abyss…the vicious cycle continuos

  2. The rigor and transparency mandate is another administrative burden that makes bureaucrats feel good while achieving nothing, and in fact may be damaging to our public image. What we should be celebrating is the fact that so much research IS reproducible – not vilifying scientists as frauds or cheats.
    As an example of how silly this “initiative” is, I use the following comparison.
    If you take the New England Patriots and the New York Jets teams, play exactly the same players on exactly the same field at exactly the same time of day in exactly the same weather conditions with exactly the same balls (deflated or otherwise), would you get the same score each time? Of course not. But this is what NIH are now trying to achieve. I repeat, given that our experiments are performed in different labs, by different people, using different animals (fed and housed differently) with different batches of reagents and different equipment, the remarkable outcome is that many many experiments ARE reproducible. Let’s try for once to concentrate on something positive, rather than imposing additional layers of bureaucracy that, however well-intentioned,are ultimately of little or no practical value and that send such a negative message to the public and to congress at a time when the scientific enterprise in this country is already under siege.

  3. good points… (not just because I am a Patriots fan). Now that I think about it, is there an underlying assumption that scientists perform their experiments without rigor? What data is the NIH using to support such a notion? Out of interest, do intramural funded scientists or Howard Hughes funded scientists perform authentications and demonstrate how they will be rigorous?

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