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Openness around animals in research statistics

On 20 November 2018, the ten universities which conducted the most animal procedures in the UK during 2017 publicised their figures. They collectively conducted a third of all UK animal research that year, completing a combined total of 1.32 million procedures. Over 99% of these procedures were carried out on rodents or fish. This is the third year in a row that universities have come together to publicise their numbers collectively as part of their ongoing commitment to transparency and openness.

Openness Awards and Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture

On Monday, 3 December 2018, UAR hosted the fifth annual Openness Awards and 82nd Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture at the Royal College of Physicians in London.

Dr. John Landers presented the Internal or Sector Engagement Award to GSK for developing a live and interactive virtual lab tour for its employees. Animal facilities were fitted with WiFi, allowing technicians to move around using a smartphone to film their workplace and transmit images of their facilities and themselves to people outside the facility via Skype. This interactive tour means viewers have the opportunity to ask technicians questions and direct the technicians to show them items of interest.

Professor Tilli Tansey presented the Public Engagement Activity Award to the MRC’s Brain Network Dynamics Unit for its Parkinson’s Open Day. People affected by Parkinson’s disease, patients, carers, family, and other members of the Oxford and Banbury groups of the charity Parkinson’s UK were given the opportunity to learn more about the Unit’s research on causes and treatment. Imperial College London was highly commended for its animal research facilities Google Expedition.

Professor John O’Keefe presented the Media Engagement or Media Stories Award to the Royal Veterinary College for sharing its Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy dog research with the media. The University of Edinburgh was highly commended for producing a media package about its gene-edited pigs.

Lastly, Professor Max Headley presented the Website or Use of New Media Award to MND Association for providing its readers with a wealth of information online about how and why the organisation uses animals in research.

Following the awards Professor John O’Keefe, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre, UCL, Principal Research Fellow of the Wellcome Trust, and 2014 Nobel Prize laureate for Physiology or Medicine, delivered the 82nd Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture, ‘What rodents have taught us about spatial cognition and memory’.

A video of the event can be viewed here.

Fourth annual Concordat report published

In December UAR published the fourth annual Concordat report. The report focuses on the outcomes of the Concordat, how signatories have fulfilled their commitments, and how the Concordat will develop further.

Download the report here.

Openness abroad

The European Animal Research Association (EARA) has completed its collaboration with the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) to provide three free events in 2018 – entitled Improving Openness in Animal Research in Germany – to promote greater openness on animal research communications. A total of around 350 researchers attended.

See these links for detailed reports on the events in BerlinTubingen, and Frankfurt. It is intended that in 2019 this collaboration with FENS and SfN will continue in additional European countries.

EARA is now working with the 16 institutions who signed the Portuguese Transparency Agreement last June to help them fulfil the commitments in the agreement. The aim of the agreement is for institutions to be more open and consistent with the public on their communication about the scientific, ethical and moral justifications for animal research. The commitments are expected to be ratified this spring, together with a media launch. A launch of a Transparency Agreement in Belgium is also expected in the spring. This is being discussed with the Belgian Council for Laboratory Animal Science (BCLAS), supported by advocacy group and EARA member Infopunt Proefdieronderzoek (IPPO).

EARA has completed its study of more than 1300 institutions that conduct animal research, to assess the openness of their websites. This review will allow EARA to identify institutions with effective communications and will help it provide guidance on best practice to EARA members and others. EARA member organisations will receive an assessment of their own website, while a report is also due to be sent to the European Commission to assist it with its ongoing study of transparency in the life sciences sector.

Openness case study: Envigo partnership with CAST provides students with a hands-on look into the value of animals in the research of new medicines and reinforces commitment to openness

Since the opening of Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology (CAST) – formerly UTC Cambridge – Envigo has been an active partner with the school on their ‘Challenge Project’. The main objective of the Challenge Project is for students to work in groups to develop a product that may eventually be taken on board by the industry. This year’s focus, creating an animal enrichment product, provides an excellent opportunity for students to learn about the value of animal research from a variety of different organisations and professionals within the animal research industry who offer diverse experience and products. Envigo’s Laboratory Animal Technologies Training Team is excited to participate in this program and showcase its expertise within this area and how their work helps advance scientific research, including the development of life-saving and life-enhancing new medicines.

Envigo’s participation is complemented by guest speakers from several companies and institutions including industry figureheads, Home Office inspectors, early career technicians and researchers.  In addition, students are provided with the opportunity to visit and tour different animal facilities that provide context for the guest speaker presentations.

Over the course of several weeks, different guest speakers cover a variety of topics. There was great participation from several local organisations and bodies including the Medical Research Council (MRC), Sanger, and the University of Cambridge – and especially from Envigo colleagues. Each year Envigo is invited to deliver a talk on the role of a CRO and how it carries out its work; tying directly to fulfilling its role as a Concordat signatory committed to openness in discussing the value of data created by animal models in scientific research. It is great to engage a group of young people in discussing what animal research really looks like and to see the policies and procedures in place to ensure proper care of the animals. The talks are delivered in a relaxed style providing lots of opportunities for questions and discussions that demonstrate that these young people are really taking on board all their experiences through the programme.

Students have several weeks to develop their ideas and create a poster/presentation to be displayed at an event at the end of the project. Guest speakers are invited back to review their ideas and Envigo is excited to see what these fresh, creative minds have developed.

Sam McBride, LAT Training Officer at Envigo commented: ‘Education is the key to opening the minds of youth to animal research and promoting openness around the work companies like Envigo carry out. Envigo is proud to be part of the Challenge Project with CAST and looks forward to being part of this project for many years to come.’

Dates for the diary

83rd Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture and UAR Openness Awards
The 2019 lecture will be presented by Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell. Please save the date.
Tuesday 3 December 2019, 5.30pm – 9.00pm
Royal College of Physicians, London

UAR training

This summer, UAR is running a series of communication workshops at the Francis Crick Institute in London. Workshops are free to UAR members (four free spaces per member organisation per year) and cost £325 + VAT per person for non-UAR members. To register for a session or to find out more, click the link below.

Media training for researchers – the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of animal research
Wednesday 1 May, 2019, 10am – 4pm
Register here

Preparing better non-technical summaries
Thursday 30 May 2019, 10am – 4pm
Register here

Debates and arguments: arguing science in the media and beyond
Thursday 6 June 2019, 10am – 4pm
Register here

Animal research policy: how to maintain a supportive operating environment
Tuesday 18 June 2019, 10am – 4pm
Register here

Telling stories online using social media, websites, and video
Wednesday 3 July 2019, 10am – 4pm
Register here

Opening up: engaging with the public on animal research
Tuesday 16 July 2019, 10am – 4pm
Register here

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