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Concordat on Openness News (October 2018)

New signatories

This year we have welcomed the MHRASwansea UniversityUniversity of BrightonPTEN Research, and University of Hertfordshire as Concordat signatories, bringing the total number to 121.

Manchester’s virtual lab tour

This year the University of Manchester created a virtual tour of its animal unit. With eleven rooms and sixteen videos, the 360 degree tour allows the viewer to look around a sample of the University’s animal facilities. Rooms with sheep, mice, rats, striped mice, zebrafish and even dogfish are on show. Each room includes one video with laboratory technicians explaining what you can see around you. Five of the rooms also include videos of scientists talking about their work.

Visitors can see a variety of scientific work such as zebrafish embryos being used to study treatments for stroke, non-invasive methods such as MRI for seeing inside living animals, how rats are used to study treatments for Parkinson’s disease, and how mice are used to study treatments for retinal degeneration.

The combination of images and videos gives an insight into the work of a modern university research facility and allows the viewer to ‘see and hear for themselves’ how animals are used in a wide range of medical and environmental research.

The Concordat in the press

Earlier this year Dr Sarah Bailey wrote an article in the Guardian about the merits of Openness. Sarah spoke about her own research involving mice at the University of Bath, whilst praising Concordat signatories for engaging with the public with animal research.

Openness abroad

In June an agreement to improve the Portuguese public’s understanding and acceptance of animal research by promoting openness and transparency has been signed by 16 institutions that use animals in biomedical research. The initiative was proposed by the European Animal Research Association (EARA) and supported by the Portuguese Society of Sciences in Laboratory Animals (SPCAL).

During September the first report on the Spanish biomedical sector’s commitment to be more transparent about its research using animals was published. Launched in 2016, the Transparency Agreement on Animal Research in Spain, which is based on the Concordat, has more than 120 public and private research centres, universities and scientific societies as signatories and the report highlights the great progress being made to improve openness. The report, which assesses the development of the fourth commitments of the transparency agreement, has been published by EARA, in partnership with the Spanish Society for Laboratory Animal Sciences.

Ask a scientist, anything

On Wednesday 4th April, UAR organised a Reddit ‘Ask Me Anything’ (AMA) with Professor Clive Page. Clive is a Professor of Pharmacology at King’s College London and Director of the Sackler Institute of Pulmonary Pharmacology, King’s College London. He has spent his career researching why people have asthma and other inflammatory diseases of the lung. Clive spoke about how animal research has played an important role in understanding asthma and COPD, and the discovery and development of new treatments, including RPL554, which is currently in clinical trials.

On Wednesday 28th February Professor Richard Reynolds hosted Imperial College London’s first animal research related Reddit AMA. Richard is Professor of Cellular Neurobiology at Imperial and Chair of the 3Rs Advisory Group for the College which works to improve and disseminate the 3Rs principles among Imperial researchers. As such, he is well placed to talk about how research involving animals still forms an important element of multiple sclerosis research. The AMA gave insight into Richard’s work and how animals still play an important role in MS research.

Following the success of Imperial’s first AMA, a second Reddit interview was arranged. On Thursday 5th July Dr John Tregoning, Senior Lecturer at Imperial and Chair of one of the College’s AWERB committees, shared his expertise regarding response to lung infections and developing of better drugs and vaccines, using a range of cell culture and animal models of infection and vaccination. Thanks to this live interview more than 21,000 people around the world had the chance to find out more about respiratory disease research directly from an expert in the field and to understand better why the use of animal research in this field is still important and how it is carried out.

To mark World Arthritis Day (Friday 12th October) UAR and Versus Arthritis hosted an AMA with Dr Lucy Donaldson, Professor of Sensory Physiology at the University of Nottingham. 

Lucy has been researching arthritis-related pain since she was a PhD student, and now leads a lab that researches why arthritis is painful, why some people experience chronic pain and others don’t, and how the function of the nervous system contributes to this dupuytren’s contracture treatment. Lucy answered a variety of questions about her research, including queries about how animals are used, and cared for, in her work.

BioIndustry Association visit King’s College London

BioIndustry Association (BIA) recently visited the animal research facilities at King’s College London. It was the first time many in the team had visited an animal research facility to see how pre-clinical research looks in practice.

BIA visited King’s College London to build on their understanding of animal research by seeing the facilities and speaking with the researchers. They were impressed by the professionalism of the staff, who displayed compassion and expertise. They were guided through mouse, snake, zebrafish, and marmoset facilities. The mice and zebrafish, being two of the most ubiquitous model organisms in science, are used for a wide range of experiments – behavioural, physiological and genetic. The marmosets are used to study the effects of different drug combinations for Parkinson’s to find better treatments and improve our understanding of the disease.

Curriculum for the use of research animals

The British Pharmacological Society (BPS) has developed a curriculum for the use of research animals, which aims to support the next generation of researchers in gaining the education, skills, and understanding of animal welfare needed to carry out these vital studies.

Undergraduate and taught masters degree programme students are expected to analyse literature and/or data that have been generated from studies involving animals under ASPA. The BPS has developed a set of core and experimental learning outcomes to support all students and provide additional guidance for those who wish to go on to study research animals in their courses, placements, projects, and careers.

The curriculum will help promote consistency in the undergraduate educational experience, openness about the use of research animals and objective evaluation of the outputs of such research. For more information please visit the BPS website.

UAR’s guide for writing non-technical summaries

UAR has worked with partners to develop tips that will help researchers write better and more engaging non-technical summaries of their ASPA-licensed projects. These summaries are the only section of the project licence that are written for the public, and have the potential to show the scope of work being carried out in the UK, as well as steps taken to minimise harms to the animals and to use alternatives.

We hope that in time the non-technical summaries will be seen as more than a statutory requirement; they will provide a way of engaging interested people with the research projects taking place in an institution. To download the guide as a PDF, please click here.

Openness around animal research statistics

On 18th July the government released its annual statistics on the number of animals used in scientific, medical, and veterinary research in 2017. The figures show that 3,789,373 procedures were conducted in Great Britain in 2017, 3.7% fewer than in 2016.

To coincide with the release, UAR asked members and Concordat signatories to share their own animal research numbers on twitter, using the hashtag #AnimalStats. Almost 500 tweets and retweets were sent from over 250 twitter accounts. The three most popular tweets in terms of engagement (retweets and likes) were from UAR, the Sanger Institute, and the University of Cambridge. Over 2 million Twitter accounts were reached throughout the day with the majority of tweets and engagement coming from the scientific community.

New signatories

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