Reproducibility and replicability of rodent phenotyping in preclinical studies

The scientific community is increasingly concerned with cases of published "discoveries" that are not replicated in further studies. The field of mouse phenotyping was one of the first to raise this concern, and to relate it to other complicated methodological issues: the complex interaction between genotype and environment; the definitions of behavioral constructs; and the use of the mouse as a model animal for human health and disease mechanisms. In January 2015, researchers from various disciplines including genetics, behavior genetics, neuroscience, ethology, statistics and bioinformatics gathered in Tel Aviv University to discuss these issues. The general consent presented here was that the issue is prevalent and of concern, and should be addressed at the statistical, methodological and policy levels, but is not so severe as to call into question the validity and the usefulness of the field as a whole. Well-organized community efforts, coupled with improved data and metadata sharing were agreed by all to have a key role to play in view of identifying specific problems, as well as promoting effective solutions. As replicability is related to validity and may also affect generalizability and translation of findings, the implications of the present discussion reach far beyond the issue of replicability of mouse phenotypes but may be highly relevant throughout biomedical research.