New Activities and Resources for Enhancing Research Quality

Promoting rigor and transparency in research is a cross-cutting strategy for NINDS, as described in our 2021-2026 strategic plan. Good study design and transparent reporting allow scientists and the broader public to interpret and assess research findings, and advancing the NINDS mission rests on funding and conducting the highest quality studies.

For over a decade, NINDS has worked to bring increased attention to the importance of scientific rigor and transparency. Now, I am delighted to share that NINDS is launching two new initiatives to further engage the research community in this work: the NINDS Sustainable Transformation of Institutional Research Rigor (STIRR) Program, and the NINDS Rigor Champions Prize.

These initiatives build on prior efforts from our NINDS Office of Research Quality. For example, following recommendations from a workshop in 2018, NINDS launched an initiative to develop educational resources for researchers on the principles of rigorous research. The first funded project, Community for Rigor (C4R), aims to release its first educational materials later this year. Additional subject matter experts contributing educational materials will be announced in August, and a final receipt date for applications comes this October. More recently, NINDS held a workshop on “Catalyzing Communities of Research Rigor Champions”, which focused on individuals promoting rigor and transparency across the biomedical enterprise (“rigor champions”). We heard a clear message that additional efforts to place a greater value on the time and energy required to increase attention and adherence to research rigor would foster a beneficial culture change in the scientific community.

Now, the STIRR Program and Rigor Champions Prize reflect our ongoing commitment to promote rigor and transparency and to recognize dedicated Rigor Champions. The first of these initiatives, STIRR, is a funding opportunity aimed at providing initial support to kickstart resources, infrastructure, and culture change within institutional entities (such as departments) to enhance neuroscience research quality. This initiative will establish innovative and scalable programs that effectively increase research rigor and transparency by driving behavioral changes resulting in better research practices. Every research environment’s needs are different, so this funding opportunity encourages programs of variable size, focus, and scope that aim to demonstrably change the local research culture. Because this funding opportunity will stimulate initial efforts, we expect that lasting outcomes may occur beyond the period of support, so a vision for sustainability is important. The first receipt date for applications is October 17, 2023. We encourage applicants to reach out to program staff if interested in applying. It is our hope that, by supporting culture change from within institutions, we can strengthen rigor and transparency practices across the neuroscience community.

Our second initiative, the NINDS Rigor Champions Prize, seeks to reward individuals and small teams who are already making a difference in enhancing rigor and transparency within the research community. We highly encourage entries from rigor champions of all career stages and roles in the scientific community, including students, support staff, and faculty, as we recognize that change can come from any sector of the research environment. Like with STIRR, we expect efforts and impacts to vary in size, focus, and scope, so we encourage champions who have organized activities big or small to apply. Critical to this Prize is evidence of having changed the culture around rigorous research practices relevant to neuroscience and not simply employing rigorous research practices in one’s own research projects. NINDS will award up to five individuals or small teams with monetary prizes of $10,000 each for championing widely applicable rigor and transparency activities. Entries are due August 15, 2023. We encourage potential participants to read the guidelines for this prize competition in full and reach out with questions through the contact form.

These activities signal our appreciation to all the rigor champions who are committed to fostering environments for producing the highest quality science, even in the face of incentive structures that often do not support these activities. This commitment to a culture of research quality ensures our discoveries will be reliable and have the greatest potential to translate into meaningful advances in knowledge about the nervous system and therapies for those living with neurological disorders.