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The Openness Awards

On Tuesday 3 December 2019 UAR hosted the sixth annual Openness Awards and 83rd Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture at the Royal College of Physicians in London.

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 UAR’s 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.

Following the awards, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester, presented the 83rd Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture, ‘A stroke of bad luck‘.

Annual Concordat Report

To coincide with the Openness Awards, we published the fifth annual Concordat report. The Concordat has had some big impacts within the life-sciences community. Animal research facilities have higher 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 Opennes have provided case studies, which include good practice 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.

EU Animal Research Statistics

Last week the European Commission released its ‘report on the statistics on the use of animals for scientific purposes in the Member States of the European Union in 2015-2017’. The report details the number of animals used for scientific, medical and veterinary research across 28 Member States, including the UK, for 2017.

In 2017, 10,664,752 animals were used for research in the EU. 9,388,162 animals (88%) were used for experimental purposes while 1,276,587 animals (12%) were used for the creation and breeding of genetically altered animals not used for experimental purposes.

The three EU countries with the highest animal use for experimental purposes in 2017 were the UK (1,839,079 animals used, 20%), Germany (1,793,299 animals used, 19%) and France (1,757,837 animals used, 19%).

92% of animals used for experimental purposes were mice, fish, rats, and birds. While cats, dogs and primates accounted for less than 0.25% of research. Some animals are used more than once during research and in 2017 there were 9,581,741 procedures carried out on animals for experimental purposes.

More than half (51%) of experimental procedures were classed as (up to and including) mild. Of the 9.58 million experimental procedures carried out on animals, 45% were carried out for basic research, 23% for translational and applied research, and 23% for regulatory purposes to satisfy legislative requirements. Since 2013, it has been illegal to sell or import cosmetics anywhere in the EU where the finished product or its ingredients have been tested on animals.

For more information please see the UAR website.

Transparency Agreement launched in Belgium

Belgian universities, research centres and companies have signed a Transparency Agreement on animal research with a commitment to communicating in a more open way about how animals are used in research.

The agreement, based on the UK’s Concordat on Openness, has been signed by 18 organisations and is under the leadership of the Belgian Council for Animal Research (BCLAS), in collaboration with the European Animal Research Association (EARA).

Similar Transparency Agreements have already been rolled out in Portugal and Spain.

Study of websites and openness on animal research published by EARA

A study by EARA, of more than 1,000 websites across the EU (including the UK), assessing how the biomedical sector talks about research using animals, has found that ‘the sector is still some way from an acceptable level of openness and transparency in animal research’.

The findings from the study were presented to the EU Commission. A total of 1,219 institutional websites within the EU were assessed, both public and private bodies, including universities and pharmaceutical companies, during 2018 and a rating system was developed to analyse the data. The findings included:

• Just under half (44%) of the institutions conducting animal research carry a recognisable statement on their websites explaining the use of animals in research/animal welfare.

• Only just over a third (36%) of the websites assessed carry any imagery related to animal research.

Comparing some of the countries in the study showed variations across the EU. The percentage of institutions that displayed a statement on the use of animals in research was – France 32%, Germany 34%, Italy 39%, Netherlands 15% and Spain 84%, with the UK achieving a 95% rating.

EARA intends in future years to revisit the websites involved and chart the improvement (or otherwise) of the institutional openness of the sector as a whole.

EARA Event on Openness at FENS Forum in Glasgow

EARA invites you to attend a panel discussion on how to improve openness in communications about animal research with the general public, political decision makers, and opinion formers. The event is designed to support researchers and institutions that wish to be more open about the animal research they conduct. The focal theme of the workshop is to discuss how and why scientists, researchers, press officers and other stakeholders should talk about animal research. Speakers will include; researchers who have talked about their research in the media and who will report on this as a positive experience; a media and communications expert who will give advice and tips on how to engage positively with the media: representatives from organisations that have led the way in developing national transparency agreements to improve communications on animal research in Europe.

A networking reception, with drinks will follow at the conclusion of this event. For more information please contact, Ana Barros

Monday 13 July 2020
18:45 – 20:45
SEC Centre, Glasgow

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