NIH asks journals to make sure we get the whole story

The Open Science credo is “Get the whole story”–we can only evaluate the claims made from scientific data when we know the whole context of how that data was generated.  For example, finding a large effect of a new drug on distractability in ADHD patients could be an impressive finding, but we become much more cautious if we learn that this was a non-predicted effect and the only one observed among 20 different symptoms measured.

Funders seem to be growing more savy about ensuring that the research they pay for is disseminated in a complete and open way.  For example, the National Institute of Health, the largest funder of biomedical research in the U.S. convened a special meeting in 2014 to discuss publishing guidelines.  The meeting was attended by the 30 journals most often published in by NIH researchers.

The meeting yielded a general set of reporting guidelines that all the journals/organizations could endorse, though each might implent and augment them in different ways.  It’s a really good document!  It is clear, concise, and fairly comprehensive.

The guidelines are organized around 5 basic principles:

  • Rigorous statistical analysis
  • Transparency in reporting
  • Data and material sharing
  • Consideration of refutations
  • Good reporting practices for images and biological sample identification

And then each of these has additional points and guidelines. You can find the complete document here:

Well done, NIH and journal editors.  Now the question is…has this had any effect?  Stay tuned. 


I'm a teacher, researcher, and gadfly of neuroscience. My research interests are in the neural basis of learning and memory, the history of neuroscience, computational neuroscience, bibliometrics, and the philosophy of science. I teach courses in neuroscience, statistics, research methods, learning and memory, and happiness. In my spare time I'm usually tinkering with computers, writing programs, or playing ice hockey.

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