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Since 2018, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has required that research proposals explicitly describe scientific rigour. They want to know scientists’ approaches to ensuring the fidelity of their data, minimizing bias and maximizing new knowledge. The NIH did this to address transparency and reproducibility challenges in research. Other funders have also signalled a long-term commitment to better practices in science. In 2020, for example, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, the body responsible for the European Union’s research and innovation policy, issued guidance to improve research reproducibility. Writing about rigorous choices can be simple. As grant coaches at the Grant Writing Academy at Stanford University in California, we work with scientists who have already thought carefully about the quality of their science and want to address rigour in their grants. Our process focuses on asking simple questions to help them sufficiently justify the rigour in their research proposals.