Randomized block experimental designs can increase the power and reproducibility of laboratory animal experiments

ILAR J. 2014;55(3):472-6. doi: 10.1093/ilar/ilu045.


Randomized block experimental designs have been widely used in agricultural and industrial research for many decades. Usually they are more powerful, have higher external validity, are less subject to bias, and produce more reproducible results than the completely randomized designs typically used in research involving laboratory animals. Reproducibility can be further increased by using time as a blocking factor. These benefits can be achieved at no extra cost. A small experiment investigating the effect of an antioxidant on the activity of a liver enzyme in four inbred mouse strains, which had two replications (blocks) separated by a period of two months, illustrates this approach. The widespread failure to use these designs more widely in research involving laboratory animals has probably led to a substantial waste of animals, money, and scientific resources and slowed down the development of new treatments for human and animal diseases.

Keywords: animal experiments; experimental design; randomized block; repeatability; reproducibility.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Experimentation*
  • Random Allocation*
  • Reproducibility of Results*
  • Research Design*