Transparency and Public Involvement in Animal 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.

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Michael Balls

Animal Experimentation: Transparency and Openness Mean Little, Unless Accompanied by Honesty and Accountability. Delivery Plans, and Declarations and Concordats on transparency and openness, are all very well, but what will they really achieve with respect to the Three Rs?
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Home Office Licence Abstracts — An Assessment

Barry Phillips and Maggy Jennings

Since late in 2004, brief abstracts of projects licensed under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 have been published on the Home Office website. These are produced by the Project Licence Holders, and their publication is seen by the Home Office as contributing to greater openness and to greater public understanding of the use of animals in science, and how it is regulated. Here, we assess the value of the database for this purpose, based on an examination of the 1400 abstracts published up to January 2008. The abstracts are generally strong on justification, but often very poor at describing the likely effects on the animals used. In many cases, they lack basic information on the procedures applied, and the numbers, and even the species, of animals involved. A significant number of projects lack abstracts altogether. In order to ensure that the database gives a complete and balanced picture of animal use in research, we consider that it should be mandatory to submit an abstract, which should include at least the species and numbers of animals used, the adverse effects they are likely to experience, and the severity limits assigned to the procedures applied to them. The value of the database would also be improved greatly, if it were more readily searchable, at least by species, level of severity, and broad area of research.
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Response to the Comment published in ATLA, on the Declaration on Openness on Animal Research

Concordat on Openness on Animal Research

Over fifty organisations involved in biomedical research in the UK have come together to develop a Concordat on how they can all work to be more open and honest about their use of animals in scientific, medical and veterinary research.
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