Dr Emily Sena

Stroke Association Kirby Laing Foundation Senior Lecturer


  • 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

  • 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 of 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 of The University of Edinburgh’s Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Board (AWERB)
  • Co-convenor of The University of Edinburgh’s Race Equality Network (EREN)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Current PhD students supervised

  • Kaitlyn Hair

Past PhD students supervised

  • 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 (http://syrf.org.uk/)

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.

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