Ostensibly high scientific standards and the promise of short-term benefits are significant challenges for animal research
Expectations for the Methodology and Translation of Animal Research: A Survey of the General Public, Medical Students and Animal Researchers in North America
Ari R. Joffe, Meredith Bara, Natalie Anton and Nathan Nobis
To determine what are considered acceptable standards for animal research (AR) methodology and translation rate to humans, a validated survey was sent to: a) a sample of the general public, via Sampling Survey International (SSI; Canada), Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT; USA), a Canadian city festival (CF) and a Canadian children's hospital (CH); b) a sample of medical students (two first-year classes); and c) a sample of scientists (corresponding authors and academic paediatricians). There were 1379 responses from the general public sample (SSI, n = 557; AMT, n = 590; CF, n = 195; CH, n = 102), 205/330 (62%) medical student responses, and 23/323 (7%, too few to report) scientist responses. Asked about methodological quality, most of the general public and medical student respondents expect that: AR is of high quality (e.g. anaesthesia and analgesia are monitored, even overnight, and 'humane' euthanasia, optimal statistical design, comprehensive literature review, randomisation and blinding, are performed), and costs and difficulty are not acceptable justifications for lower quality (e.g. costs of expert consultation, or more laboratory staff). Asked about their expectations of translation to humans (of toxicity, carcinogenicity, teratogenicity and treatment findings), most expect translation more than 60% of the time. If translation occurred less than 20% of the time, a minority disagreed that this would "significantly reduce your support for AR". Medical students were more supportive of AR, even if translation occurred less than 20% of the time. Expectations for AR are much higher than empirical data show to have been achieved.
Elisabeth H. Ormandy
This interview-based study examined the diversity of views relating to the creation and use of genetically-engineered (GE) animals in biomedical science. Twenty Canadian participants (eight researchers, five research technicians and seven members of the public) took part in the interviews, in which four main themes were discussed: a) how participants felt about the genetic engineering of animals as a practice; b) governance of the creation and use of GE animals in research, and whether current guidelines are sufficient; c) the Three Rs (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement) and how they are applied during the creation and use of GE animals in research; and d) whether public opinion should play a greater role in the creation and use of GE animals. Most of the participants felt that the creation and use of GE animals for biomedical research purposes (as opposed to food purposes) is acceptable, provided that tangible human health benefits are gained. However, obstacles to Three Rs implementation were identified, and the participants agreed that more effort should be placed on engaging the public on the use of GE animals in research.
Pandora Pound and Ricardo Blaug
To be legitimate, research needs to be ethical, methodologically sound, of sufficient value to justify public expenditure and be transparent. Animal research has always been contested on ethical grounds, but there is now mounting evidence of poor scientific method, and growing doubts about its clinical value. So what of transparency? Here we examine the increasing focus on openness within animal research in the UK, analysing recent developments within the Home Office and within the main group representing the interests of the sector, Understanding Animal Research. We argue that, while important steps are being taken toward greater transparency, the legitimacy of animal research continues to be undermined by selective openness. We propose that openness could be increased through public involvement, and that this would bring about much needed improvements in animal research, as it has done in clinical research.
Lise Houde, Claude Dumas and Thérèse Leroux
Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) members were interviewed on various ethical matters, including ethics, animal ethics, science and ethics, and the use of animals in research, in order to explore their implicit ethical framework. The results revealed that IACUC members entertain rich and diverse beliefs about ethics, that are part of an implicit ethical framework which relates to different domains of knowledge, such as biology (differences between human and animals), psychology (e.g. affective relationships with pets), and so on. The results also revealed that IACUC members hold quite a restrictive view on both animal ethics and animal use in research, and that they apply implicit ethical notions, such as respect and justice, to some elements (e.g. ethical rules) of the explicit ethical framework they are provided with when performing ethical evaluations of animal use. The study suggests that IACUC members should be provided with more up-to-date information on topics such as animal ethics and animal use in research.
Fifty years after the publication of The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique by Russell and Burch, this paper explores the contemporary role of the Three Rs. This is illustrated by reference to a recent social scientific study, which involved a total of 50 in-depth interviews with scientists who use animals and with other stakeholders in the debate. The data analysis shows how the Three Rs are conceptualised in at least three ways: firstly, as an ethical animal, either as a shorthand for a moral imperative, or as a route to managing an ethical dilemma; secondly, as a scientific animal, internal to the scientific method; and finally, as a political animal, with some stakeholders referring to the Three Rs as a way to promote consensus in a controversial domain. Pushing the metaphor a little further, the paper concludes that the Three Rs concept has become a kind of hybrid animal.