Consortium-wide general procedures
An important and valuable feature of our consortium has been the development and implementation of standardized operating procedures (SOPs) for many of the experimental manipulations and assessments involved in the various research projects. As the consortium has scientifically matured since its inception, a growing number of investigators have incorporated use of genetic mouse models and various experimental procedures in their research activities, all focused on the general research theme that ties the consortium together. Consequently, it became apparent that establishing appropriate SOPs would be beneficial for facilitating integration of information gained from individual investigators. However, the advantages associated with utilizing standardized procedures in experimental work conducted by diverse and geographically separated laboratories clearly outweigh such limitations. We recognize that variance is inevitable for (especially) behavioral outcomes, even when "standardized" procedures are used to test specific genotypes across different laboratories (Crabbe et al., 1999). Nevertheless, it seems difficult to argue the value of using SOPs, when appropriate, to enhance capability of integrating data focused on a common research theme but emanating from different laboratories. Moreover, this point is especially relevant given that the consortium is focused on dynamic and complex research issues (e.g., stress, anxiety) that, in many cases, require operational definitions to be established for appropriate analysis and interpretation.
Through numerous and extensive discussions at consortium-wide retreats and meetings, the need for establishing SOPs for certain experimental procedures that were being employed by several investigators within the consortium was determined. Ethanol treatment and behavioral related SOPs for mice were primarily constructed by H. Becker, who leads the Behavioral Phenotyping component of the Mouse Resources Core in the consortium. Many of the behavioral SOPs also derive from the high throughput screening procedures used to identify genetic mouse models that exhibit unique ethanol/stress/anxiety-related phenotypes (D. Goldowitz, M. Cook, K. Hamre). SOPs for monkey studies were composed by K. Grant and SOPs for neurosteroid sample and assay procedures were provided by L. Morrow, who leads the Neurosteroid Service Core in the consortium. All investigators within the consortium have access to these SOPs on the INIAstress website. Standard operating procedures have been established for the following research activities.