Rigor and Reproducibility
The Neuroscience Microscopy Core (NMC) is committed to providing researchers with tools to ensure their research is rigorous and reproducible. The following are specific ways in which NMC contributes to the rigor and reproducibility of research:
- The NMC performs weekly maintenance on all instruments, covers the most complex ones with comprehensive service contracts, and insures instruments against catastrophic damage. These actions contribute to a stable of reliable instruments that can be used by trained scientists with confidence. A list of the specific checks included in our maintenance procedures for each microscope, as well as which of them are covered by comprehensive service contracts are here.
- The NMC provides recommendations for light microscopy sample preparation and an introduction and reading material for proper sampling methods.
- The NMC provides individual training on all of its instruments, to ensure researchers learn proper image acquisition, image storage and metadata retention practices.
- The NMC can provide guidelines and tools for properly displaying images.
- The NMC provides extensive consulting and on-on-one training on custom image analysis pipelines.
- The NMC is available to consult on writing methods sections for papers. The NMC can provide detailed information on light-sources, filter sets, detectors, and other hardware components for proper description in methods sections.
- NMC staff are on hand for consultations of any kind, or to troubleshoot problems with any instrument.
- If the NMC staff detects problems with any instrument or software, we communicate the problem to any users that might have been affected, as well as workarounds, and timelines for complete resolution. Similarly, the NMC staff will communicate changes to any instrument or analysis software to our users, and make best efforts to maintain backwards compatibility.
While the NMC can guarantee work directly undertaken by its staff (maintenance and training) is done to the highest standards, it is the responsibility of individual scientists to ensure they follow our recommendations to ensure the rigor and reproducibility of their research.
In addition to the specific ways in which the NMC contributes to the rigor and reproducibility of research conducted in the core, all of UNC is committed to this goal. General guidelines for rigorous and reproducible research at UNC can be found here.
Eight steps to Rigorous and Reproducible Experiments in Biomolecular Research at UNC:
- If using a core facility, consult with the core staff in the planning stage. Consult with a statistician if you need help developing a Power Analysis to assure that your results will be adequately powered.
- Design your experiment with sufficient controls (rigor) and replicates (reproducibility).
- Assure that ALL of your reagents (antibodies, cell lines, mice) are fully validated (see below).
- Have a clear and detailed protocol (SOP) and data analysis plan. Assure that the protocol is strictly followed or that any deviation is well documented.
- Assure that the staff or students performing the experiment are well trained and understand each step and the importance of performing them precisely.
- Use only well-maintained instrumentation, preferably maintained and operated in a core facility with expert staff (see #1 above).
- Document all steps, reagents, equipment and data analysis methods used in the experiment. Assure that the both the documentation and the data itself are properly stored in a safe data management repository.
- Acknowledge the Cancer Center Support Grant (P30 CA016086) (if applicable), other grants that support the core, the core (by name), and core staff in publications.
Please note that the NIH now requires rigor and reproducibility to be addressed explicitly in many grant applications. More information can be found here.