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Training Modules to Enhance Data Reproducibility Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Updated September 30, 2014

These Frequently Asked Questions have been formulated to assist potential applicants in understanding the intent and requirements of RFA-GM-15-006, Training Modules to Enhance Data Reproducibility (R25). Additional FAQs may be added as staff receive and respond to additional questions.


Q. What is the intent of RFA-GM-15-006?

A. The intent of this R25 program is to use educational activities as an intervention to increase the likelihood that researchers derive the same, unbiased results when experiments are repeated. This funding opportunity will support creative educational activities focused on developing the skills of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and beginning investigators with respect to conducting reproducible research.

Q. What is an R25 award?

A. The NIH R25 award is a mechanism to support education projects (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/ac_search_results.htm?text_curr=r25&Search.x=-626&Search.y=-465&Search_Type=Activity).

Q. What is the expected educational product for RFA-GM-15-006?

A. Within a 2-year timeframe, these R25 awards are expected to produce, pilot and disseminate one or more exportable training modules designed to enhance data reproducibility targeted to graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and beginning investigators. It is expected that the proposed training modules will be made available to the scientific community at no cost.

Q. What is a module for the purpose of this RFA?

A. Modules are relatively short units of training of sufficient depth and coverage to empower the trainee with the knowledge and skills to assure high-quality research.

Q. What is an appropriate length for a training module?

A. The RFA calls for short modules that can be completed in a day or less. This training is meant to augment and enhance the usual laboratory training that investigators receive, not replace it. Ideally, the training should be offered in a format that makes it possible to review relevant topics immediately prior to conducting experiments.

Q. What does "exportable" mean?

A. Exportable means shareable, readily accessible and open online educational resources.

Q. Might a nominal charge be assessed to users of the modules once developed?

A. The training modules should be accessible online at no charge.

Q. What is the maximum budget allowable for these awards?

A. Applicants may request up to $150,000 in total costs to cover the entire period of the award. Award periods of up to 5 years may be requested.

Q. If modules are expected to be available within the first 2 years, why are award periods of up to 5 years offered?

A. The additional period of support might allow for further evaluation, updates and maintenance for the training module.

Q. Will the extra funds be awarded to allow grantees to attend required meetings in Bethesda, Maryland?

A. No. Travel costs for these meetings must be included in the budget requested in the application.

Q. How many awards will be made?

A. The combined commitments of the participating NIH funding components allows for up to 21 awards. However, the actual number of awards supported will depend on the availability of funds and a sufficient pool of highly meritorious applications.

Q. Are multi PI proposals allowed?

A. Yes.

Q. What topics might be appropriate for RFA-GM-15-006?

A. Generally, the training modules will be about eliminating or minimizing sources of error and bias in laboratory experimentation. These topics will most likely fall into four areas:

  • Experimental design, such as how to determine whether controls and replicates are adequate.
  • Laboratory practices such as validation of reagents and use of appropriate standards.
  • Analysis and reporting of results, such as the necessary procedural details that should be included.
  • Culture of science, such as how to avoid confirmation bias in hypothesis testing and how to defend against the subtle influence of pressure to produce exciting findings.

Q. Must an application propose to develop modules in each of the target areas (experimental design, laboratory practices, analysis and reporting, and culture of science)?

A. No. Applications can propose developing one or more modules, but are not required to cover all target areas.

Q. Will preference be given to supporting training in one topic area over another?

A. As always, merit as determined by peer review will be the primary determinant for funding. Research practices that have the widest applicability may receive more consideration for funding, but in selecting awardees a significant consideration will be the diversity of the areas of training.

Q. Would organizing a workshop or series of workshops meet the goals of this program?

A. These R25 educational resources are meant to be widely available to various audiences. Workshops would not meet the goals of the program, though they might be an element in developing a training module.

Q. Would organizing a Webinar or series of Webinars meet the goals of this program?

A. If the Webinars or series of Webinars were readily accessible, they would meet the technical requirement of the product. However, to be competitive they would need to be engaging and likely interactive.

Q. Would on-site, hands-on training experiences meet the goals of this program?

A. Instructor-led training would be limited in audience reach and timeliness and thus do not meet the goals of this RFA. Instructor-led discussion may be used to augment the modules as part of a training program.

Q. Would the development of exportable training modules tailored to a specific field of research and/or disease be responsive to RFA-GM-15-006?

A. Yes, especially if they address the specific interests of one of the NIH funding components or the training is generalizable to a wider audience; however, meritorious proposals of a more general nature might be favored for funding. It is advisable to check with the program contact for the most relevant funding component early in the process of developing your proposal to discuss the relevance of such an application.

Q. Are grantees responsible for hosting the modules, or maintaining them after the award period has ended?

A. NIH is planning to host the modules when they are first ready to be utilized, including being 508 compliant. Grantees wishing to maintain, update and host their own modules are free to do so as long as they remain readily accessible to the research training community and NIH can link directly to them from its Web site. NIH will provide continued access to the modules when grantees do not wish to or are unable to host them beyond the period of support.

Q. Would a module in statistics satisfy this request for applications?

A. A module in basic statistics would not satisfy this call unless it is closely linked to real life biomedical examples of how statistics are applied in experimental design and data analysis and elements required to ensure data reproducibility.

Q. Would some form of quantitative training be responsive to the RFA?

A. Although there may be a general weakness in mathematical/quantitative training for many students, that topic/issue is not a primary focus of this RFA.

Q. Would a module in symbolic logic satisfy this call for applications?

A. Possibly, if used to probe the variables in experimental design and analysis for several real life biomedical examples.

Q. Would a module on the implementation of electronic notebooks and lab databases satisfy this call for applications?

A. Such a module would be responsive if focused on how the use of electronic notebooks and lab databases improve data reproducibility in a generic sense. Modules on lab notebooks and databases should focus on appropriate record keeping and how electronic record keeping enhances that. It is inappropriate for NIH to endorse a particular vendor's product and such a module would also have limited accessibility. Modules endorsing a particular vendor's product would not be responsive. However, a module would be responsive if the software for implementing such notebooks and databases is freely available.

Q. Would a module on scientific ethical conduct be responsive to this call?

A. Not as such. Data reproducibility could be a unit within training on the responsible conduct of research. For example, a module focused on ethical issues related to accurate reporting of experimental conditions and resulting data would be responsive if coupled with training on accurate reporting.

Q. Would a module on manuscript writing be responsive to this call?

A. A module that focused on what needs to be in a manuscript to ensure that the work can be reproduced by others would be appropriate.

Q. Would a series of modules dealing with particular types of experiments and techniques be appropriate? For example, would data reproducibility issues related to microarray methods, data reproducibility issues related to cell cultures or variability of cell strains, etc., be responsive?

A. Focused modules that deal with common problems in widely used experimental methods would be appropriate.

Q. Would a module focused on specific organisms or model systems be appropriate?

A. A module that considered data reproducibility issues for several common procedures involving a particular widely used research model would be responsive.

Q. Would a module focused solely on computational reproducibility be responsive to the RFA or is it meant for reproducibility of laboratory-based assays?

A. The RFA is not restricted to just laboratory-based research. All biomedical research is included; so computational reproducibility that falls under the heading of biomedical research would be responsive to the RFA.

Q. Can you develop tools to improve data reproducibility, such as software, as part of this grant?

A. No, these awards are to support education/training, not research.

Q. Can you hold workshops to develop standards for best practices using grant funds?

A. Workshops held as part of developing a module and with the purpose of defining standards or best practices in the area of the training module are allowable.

Q. Is it appropriate to include or focus on training for students in professional doctoral programs (Pharm.D., D.O., M.D., etc.)?

A. It is appropriate if they are training for research careers or have just begun a research career. Issues of reproducibility should be relevant to clinical practitioners but it is not a focus of this RFA.

Q. Would a module concerning the psychology or sociology of science relevant to the pressure to publish (frequently and in high profile journals) or perish paradigm be appropriate?

A. A module examining how social pressures in the scientific community influence reproducibility and how those might be defused would be responsive.

Q. Data reproducibility is considered by some scientists as falling into categories of reproducibility, replicability and generalizability. Are modules in any of those areas appropriate?

A. Yes.

This page last reviewed on October 01, 2015