On Tuesday, 3rd December 2019, UAR hosted the sixth annual Openness Awards and 83rd Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture at the Royal College of Physicians in London.
To coincide with the event, UAR published the fifth annual Concordat report. Jeremy Pearson, Chair of UAR’s Council, spoke about how the Concordat has developed since its launch in May 2014. The Concordat has had some big impacts within the life-sciences community. Animal research facilities have greater profiles within their institutions, which has led to greater investment, more appreciation of animal care staff, and importantly, better animal welfare. There is also a greater access to information about animals in research, from the organisations that carry out this work. More organisations than ever before are sharing images and videos of their research, animal research statistics and even details of severity. And for those interested in this type of work, there is better access to see inside animal facilities whether it’s via Open Lab initiatives or virtual tours.
This year the annual report has a new section. Our first set of Leaders in Openness have provided case studies, which include good practise examples of websites, media engagement, internal engagement, and public engagement around the use of animals in research. Leaders in Openness are organisations that are consistently achieving and embedding good practice around openness. We hope that providing clear examples of how good practice has been implemented will inspire other signatories in their own openness activities.
The Openness Awards
Professor Roger Lemon presented the Internal and Sector Engagement Award to Newcastle University for its ‘tribute to animals’ event. The event was an opportunity to recognise and respect the contribution of research animals to science at the University, as well as celebrate the benefits of that science. It can be hard for those working in animal research to talk to people outside of their job, particularly around the topics which can be most upsetting, like euthanasia. This was an excellent example of culture of care through the provision of institutional and wider personal support networks.
Ken Applebee presented the Public Engagement Activity Award to the University of Edinburgh for its animal research event during Edinburgh Science Festival. This event was held in a public space and was open to anyone who signed up. There was a dedicated time and space where those who were interested could ask questions about animal research and welfare. The event was a good mix of science and welfare was presented but what made it really stand out was the dedicated question and answer section, something which saw the staff involved deal with some complex and interesting questions from the public, with no screening or prior knowledge of what would be asked.
Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell presented the Media Engagement or Media Stories Award to The Francis Crick Institute for a BBC Radio 5 broadcast from within its animal facilities. The Crick proactively invited a journalist into its labs. The researchers involved spoke informatively and sensitively about difficult topics such as cervical dislocation, giving mice lung cancer, and the numbers of animals used. This was an excellent piece of work that saw researchers answer difficult questions, as well as speaking realistically about the benefits of the research and the differences and similarities between mice and humans.
Ross Millard presented the Website or Use of New Media Award to the University of Reading for its animal statistics media campaign. Talking about animal research statistics and putting these big numbers into context can be difficult but the University found an innovative hook to promote its statistics. Thanks to well-made infographics this media campaign was clear and engaging. It’s not every day that a Concordat signatory can coordinate an animal statistics campaign around the arrival of a cute baby llama but the University of Reading seized the opportunity perfectly.
The final award of the evening was presented by UARs Chief Executive, Wendy Jarrett. Each year, the UAR team presents its own award to an individual who has consistently gone above and beyond in their work to support openness on animal research. This year, we couldn’t decide on a single person to receive this award, so we gave it to two people, Val Summers and Professor Nic Wells.
Val has consistently worked to help the public understand why animals are used in research and how research animals are bred and acclimatised for a life in a research facility. She has organised media visits into her facility and has worked behind the scenes to improve openness across the sector. Nic has helped UAR countless times by talking to the media, MPs, and other people about the realities of animal research. He helped develop the Concordat and continues to support it wherever he can. He also works on behalf of the sector, liaising with the Home Office, chairing meetings and giving media briefings.
The Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture
The Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture celebrates the life of Stephen Paget who passionately believed that a greater understanding of physiology would lead to better medical advances. He was the founder of the Research Defence Society which later became Understanding Animal Research. This year Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell presented the 83rd Paget Lecture, with her talk ‘a stroke of bad luck’.
Nancy is President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester. Alongside her many past and present professional appointments, Nancy was also Chair of the Research Defence Society from 2004 to 2007.
During her lecture, Nancy spoke about how her early work focused on weight loss and metabolism in disease but when she discovered that blocking cytokine could reduce, not only metabolism and weight loss, but also brain damage in an animal model of stroke, she switched field to concentrate on stroke research. Her current research focuses on the role of inflammation in brain disease and she has identified the role of the cytokine interleukin-1 in diverse forms of brain injury. Her recent studies have begun to elucidate the mechanisms regulating interleukin-1 release and its action, and her group is conducting clinical trials of an interleukin-1 inhibitor in stroke (find out here the details of how clinical trials are designed). Someone has a stroke every 5 minutes in the UK so we hope that one day these patients might benefit from Nancy’s work.
Transcripts for previous Paget Lectures going back to 1927, and videos going back a little less far, can be found here.