Reproducibility of animal research in light of biological variation

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2020 Jul;21(7):384-393. doi: 10.1038/s41583-020-0313-3. Epub 2020 Jun 2.


Context-dependent biological variation presents a unique challenge to the reproducibility of results in experimental animal research, because organisms' responses to experimental treatments can vary with both genotype and environmental conditions. In March 2019, experts in animal biology, experimental design and statistics convened in Blonay, Switzerland, to discuss strategies addressing this challenge. In contrast to the current gold standard of rigorous standardization in experimental animal research, we recommend the use of systematic heterogenization of study samples and conditions by actively incorporating biological variation into study design through diversifying study samples and conditions. Here we provide the scientific rationale for this approach in the hope that researchers, regulators, funders and editors can embrace this paradigm shift. We also present a road map towards better practices in view of improving the reproducibility of animal research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Experimentation / standards*
  • Animals
  • Biological Variation, Population*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design / standards*