Statisticians publish research showing need for improvement in animal-based research

Two members of our department’s Statistics in Anesthesiology Research (STAR) Core have published new research in the journal Military Medicine showing poor methodological quality in animal research studies, pointing to problems in clinical research translation and ethical issues for animal use.

Doctors Penny Reynolds and Cyndi GarvanPenny Reynolds, PhD, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology, and Cynthia Garvan, PhD, Professor of Anesthesiology, systematically reviewed 136 recent publications describing swine models of hemostasis and hemorrhage reduction to assess compliance with established standards for scientific reporting.

They found that most articles did not report the information that would be essential to assess study validity and reliability of experimental results. Moreover, they found poor methodological quality, with studies claiming random allocation showing clear evidence of systematic bias, and excessive hypothesis testing increasing the risk of false positives. However, nearly all studies reported statistically significant effects and interpreted these as evidence of benefit, the study said.

While military funding agencies and the National Institutes of Health have advocated best research practices, “unfortunately, the research community as a whole is not compliant; poorly designed and reported studies appear to be the norm, rather than the exception,” the study said.

The validity of animal research is important because the research community relies on animal research to properly assess the therapeutic benefit of new clinical interventions.

Investigators need to rely less on rote hypothesis testing, develop skills in experimental design and quantitative analysis, and comply with best-practice reporting guidelines, the paper concluded.

The manuscript, titled “Gap Analysis of Swine-Based Hemostasis Research: ‘Houses of Brick or Mansions of Straw?’” was published online on Feb. 19 in Military Medicine, which is the official journal of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States.

On June 25 1-2pm, Dr. Reynolds will be presenting on “Improving the Rigor & Reproducibility of Animal Research Using ARRIVE”. Register for her online  presentation through the George A. Smathers Libraries.