Perspectives on Choosing the Best Research Organism for Your Scientific Question

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Among the research organisms discussed at the NIGMS workshop last September are (clockwise): Ambystoma mexicanum (axolotl, credit: iStock), Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast, credit: see NIGMS Image and Video Gallery), Euprymna scolopes (bobtail squid, credit: Dr. Satoshi Shibata), and Platyhelminthes (planarian, credit: iStock). Among the research organisms discussed at the NIGMS workshop last September are (clockwise): Ambystoma mexicanum (axolotl, credit: iStock), Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast, credit: see NIGMS Image and Video Gallery), Euprymna scolopes (bobtail squid, credit: Dr. Satoshi Shibata), and Platyhelminthes (planarian, credit: iStock).

Consistent with NIGMS’ mission to support a diverse portfolio of biomedically relevant basic research, we aim to support research that uses a wide range of research organisms (ROs). We see this approach as the best way to increase our understanding of life.

This past fall, we hosted a group of researchers, funders, institutional leaders, and representatives of scientific societies for a day-long workshop to discuss the scientific and practical considerations of choosing the most appropriate RO for a given scientific question. The morning session included panelists who shared their experiences and pathways to studying a variety of ROs such as the African spiny mouse and the three-banded panther worm. The afternoon focused more on the practical considerations of working with a less common ROs and included a discussion of the NIGMS analysis of rare ROs, specific funding programs in this area, and points reviewers should consider when reviewing applications with less common ROs. The workshop agenda and a link to the full videocast are available on our website.

Following on this topic, I’m pleased to participate in the upcoming webinar, Diversifying the Research Organism Landscape Link to external web site. Hosted by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), the webinar will be held on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET. I’ll be joined by Emma Farley of the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, and Wallace Marshall of the University of California, San Francisco. We’ll discuss the importance of selecting the appropriate organism for various research topics, and touch on an important consideration: Do you lead with the scientific question first, or do you select the research organism you know and tailor your research according to the organism’s characteristics?

I encourage you to join this fascinating conversation. For those who can’t participate live, you can watch both the NIGMS workshop videocast and the archived FASEB webinar Link to external web site at your convenience.

One Reply to “Perspectives on Choosing the Best Research Organism for Your Scientific Question”

  1. Glad to hear that the NIH is continuing to support research in diverse organisms. Today with many sequenced genomes it makes sense to consider the differences and similarities that make cellular processes happen in different organisms. Equally important is the uncovering of novel mechanisms that can expand our tools and capabilities in research or in health.

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