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Supporting the Concordat in the future – can we do more, what more can we do and should the Concordat require more?

I began by explaining that I was from a medium sized medical charity that relied on voluntary donations to fund research. The charity is also a patient organisation. While we support the Concordat, and do lots of things to be open about the research we fund that involves animals, there are limits on what more we can do. I mentioned that in some parts of our fundraising team there is a reluctance to mention research that involves animals, due to the perceived impact this has on income.

We discussed whether this was a real risk or a perceived risk, and the IPSOS-MORI poll about attitudes to research involving animals may show that acceptance of this is improving.

We discussed whether more could be done to require or encourage signatories to publish all the results of their animal research, including their negative results. For example, could learned society journals be encouraged to publish these studies. We also talked about where else negative results could be published or stored, for example as pre-prints, or in ‘open space’ repositories such as figshare, F1000, Welcome Trust’s Open Space etc.

We discussed whether there could be a commitment in the concordat about publishing negative results, but there was acknowledgement that as with other forms of open sharing, e.g. open access publishing, there may difficulties with compliance. We concluded that while probably not making it a part of one of the commitments, the value of publishing negative results could be made more prominent / explicit within the concordat.

We also discussed the idea of awarding different tiers of openness to signatories, along the lines of Athena SWAN. For example, bronze, silver and gold members- depending on how much they had achieved in being open. It was felt that this may not be in the spirit of the Concordat, which encourages all signatories to take the steps they can, and may discourage further signatories (or existing ones!). The annual Openness Awards exist to recognise and reward good practice.

We also discussed whether more use could be made of the non-technical summaries that the Home office publishes on its website for each project licence issued.

For research funding organisations one suggestion was that it could become a condition of funding that the research institute where the grant was based should be a signatory of the concordat.

The IPSOS-MORI poll was also discussed in the context of measuring the impact that the Concordat had had so far on attitudes. As the wording of the questions had changed in the poll after the Concordat was implemented, it wasn’t possible to get accurate data on this at the moment. Softer ways of measuring impact were discussed, such as the amount of reporting in newspapers, on university websites, on media websites and online broadcasting etc. It was noted that much of the public engagement happening as a result of the Concordat is focused on schools, and it will be some time before the young people involved in that are asked their opinions in market research. We also discussed the idea that each signatory should be asked to organise a tour of an animal facility once a year.

We were given an example of researchers being asked by their funder to write a ‘good news story’ about research involving animals or ‘how the animals had been used’ for each research project that was funded. This could be shared as a good practice idea on the new Concordat website, as could screen grabs of web pages dedicated to animal research.

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