Professor Emily Sena

Professor of Meta-science and Translational Medicine


Emily is specialised in the validity of preclinical research and has a background in pharmacology and neuroscience. Her interests are in the use of meta-research approaches to drive improvements in the validity, transparency and reproducibility of primary research using laboratory models of human diseases. Her work has informed laboratory practice guidelines, editorial policy and clinical trials design. 

Emily is  a member of the University of Edinburgh Animal Welfare Ethical Review Board (AWERB), and convenor of CAMARADES. She also co-founded and was co-convenor of the University of Edinburgh Race Equality Network, now convenes the university’s Race Equality and Anti-Racist Sub-Committee and is highly committed to engendering and facilitating an anti-racist culture across campus.

She tweets as @profEmilySena.


  • Biological Sciences with honours in Pharmacology, University of Edinburgh, 2001-2005
  • PhD, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Edinburgh, with one-year exchange at the Department of Medicine (Austin Health), University of Melbourne, Australia. “Systematic review and meta-analysis of neuroprotective drugs in animal models of ischemic stroke”. 2005-2010

Responsibilities & affiliations

  • Director, Public Library OScience (PLOS) Board

  • Co-Director, Wellcome Trust Translational Neuroscience PhD Programme

  • Co-convenor, University of Edinburgh’s Race Equality and Anti-Racist sub-committee (REAR)

  • Member, Challenge group of Universities UK/UKRI/Wellcome Trust ‘Concordats and Agreements Review’
  • Advisory board, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) Open Science 
  • Advisory board, Association of Medical Reserach Charities (AMRC) Open Research
  • Advisory Board, British Neuroscience Association (BNA) Credibility campaign
  • Governance subcommittee, Evidence Synthesis International (ESI)
  • Steering Group, NC3Rs’ RIVER (Reporting In Vitro Experiments Responsibly) Guidelines
  • Inaugural Editor-in-Chief,  BMJ Open Science
  • Scientific Advisory Panel, Berlin Institutes of Health (BIH) Center for Transforming Biomedical Research (QUEST)
  • Steering committee, REWARD alliance
  • Board of Trustees, Evidence-Based Toxicology Collaboration (EBTC)
  • Convener, Collaborative Approach to Meta-Analysis and Review of Animal Data in Experimental Studies (CAMARADES)
  • Scientific member, The University of Edinburgh’s Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Board (AWERB)
  • Member, The University of Edinburgh’s Race Equality Network (EREN)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Current PhD students supervised

  • Emma Wilson

Past PhD students supervised

  • Kaitlyn Hair
  • Zsanett Bahor
  • Xenios Milidonis

Research summary

I am specialised in the validity of preclinical research and have a background in pharmacology and neuroscience. My interests are in the use of meta-research approaches to drive improvements in the validity, transparency and reproducibility of primary research using laboratory models of human diseases. My work  has led to model specific guidelines for good laboratory practice, informed journal policies and funding guidelines, and impacted the internal validity of preclinical research.

Current research interests

Our research seeks to improve the utility of preclinical research to increase the likelihood of effective translation of findings in the laboratory to a clinical setting. Much of our research has used models of ischaemic stroke as an exemplar disease with the expectation that our findings and approaches will be applicable to other disease areas. We are interested in the use of meta-research (primarily systematic review/meta-analysis) projects in different preclinical disease domains. This is to understand factors of experimental validity and to identify areas to improve the utility of preclinical research. We also seek to demonstrate the application of text mining and machine learning to accelerate the speed and quality in which we perform systematic reviews. Our other interest include research improvement activities and testing the effectiveness of proposed solutions derived from meta-research. We have used data from systematic reviews to inform good laboratory practice guidelines and I collaborated with publishers to undertake trials of interventions to improve reporting. This has supported evidence-based editorial policies and revision of ARRIVE. Finally, we are also interested in the methodological development of preclinical meta-research techniques. The tools we use were primarily developed to synthesise clinical trial data, we developed guidance and tools for appropriate synthesis of preclinical data (e.g. our 2014 practical guide paper and the SyRF website and application (

Past research interests

In vivo stroke modelling studies including animal handling, neurobehavioural and histological outcomes. This has facilitated my understanding of the complexities of performing preclinical research and the practicalities of implementing improvement solutions. I used systematic review findings to develop hypotheses to test in the laboratory that have also informed the design of a phase-III clinical trials. I also led the international Multi-PART consortium, bringing together methodologists and animal researchers in pursuit of multi-centre preclinical stroke studies.

Current project grants

2023-2026 "improving Reproducibility In SciencE; iRISE" - Horizon Europe - €2,602,762
2022-2025 “Improving The Credibility And Utility Of In Vitro Research” – Medical Research Council- £421,775
2021-2023 “A digital dashboard to support institutions implementing open science: Establishing a core set of
open science metrics to track”- Wellcome Trust – CAD 168,067
2018-2023 "Increasing the reliability and usefulness of laboratory stroke research" - Stroke Association Kirby Laing Foundation Senior Non-Clinical Lectureship Award - £224,999

Past project grants

2019-2021 “StrokeCoMorb: Preclinical systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of age and comorbidities on ischaemic stroke outcome and treatment efficacy”- Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) - €238,179
2017-2021 “European Quality in Preclinical Data” (WP leader) – EC Innovative Medicines Initiative - €9.2 million
2020-2020 “A Systematic Online “Living” Evidence Summary of primary research on COVID-19 (COVID-SOLES): a curated resource for researchers and clinicians” - Wellcome-University of Edinburgh Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF3) award - £22,865
2016-2018 “Pilot study of the utility of text mining and machine learning tools to accelerate systematic review and meta-analysis of findings of in vivo research” - Wellcome Trust & Medical Research Council - £351,857
2016-2017 “Identifying Stroke Therapeutics from Preclinical Models: Using Network Meta-Analysis” - Canadian Institutes of Health Research - CAD 100,000
2013-2018 “ivSyRMAF - the CAMARADES-NC3Rs in vivo systematic review and meta-analysis facility” - NC3Rs Infrastructure Grant - £504,931
2013-2015 “Multicentre Preclinical Animal Research Team: Multi-PART” - European Commission FP7- €497,781
2012-2014 “Reduction and refinement in animal models of neuropathic pain: using systematic review and meta-analysis” - NC3Rs Project Grant - £208,908