Policy Implications and Recommendations
Advancement in science is predicated on two critical concepts: rigor in designing and performing scientific research and the ability to reproduce biomedical research findings. In 2016, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the Rigor and Reproducibility Policy to better ensure that researchers use unbiased and well-controlled experimental design, methodology, analysis, interpretation, and reporting of results. Further, the policy encourages scientific integrity, public accountability, and social responsibility.
Music-based interventions (MBIs) are a valuable therapeutic opportunity, as these interventions are low cost, mostly devoid of side effects, often scalable in health care systems, and generally well accepted by patients. The development and dissemination of the NIH MBI Toolkit addresses a pressing need in the music and health field for enhanced data collection, with guidelines for scientifically rigorous studies, representing a necessary step in accelerating progress toward incorporating MBIs in health care systems.
Rigorous MBI research also requires a team science approach, bringing together different groups with varied expertise, perspectives, and ideas. To be successful, the investigative team should be interdisciplinary and have expertise in the population or health condition of interest, intervention development, target outcomes (e.g., functional, biological, disease, and non-disease outcomes), neuroscience, and relevant biomarkers. The team should include a methodological expert(s); statistician; competent clinician(s) to deliver the intervention; stakeholders (e.g., patients, caregivers); skilled study coordinator(s) to supervise recruitment, data collection, adherence to study protocol, and data management; and an individual with experience managing funded research. Utilization of the guiding principles of the NIH MBI Toolkit is strongly recommended for NIH-funded studies of MBIs.