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NC3Rs/NIH OLAW experimental design and reporting survey

Applying the 3Rs to experiments using animals is widely accepted as being consonant with good scientific practice. Appropriate and efficient experimental design is also good scientific practice, increasing the robustness and validity of the experimental results, maximising the knowledge gained from each experiment, and ultimately helping to reduce the number of animals used in experiments.

Based on the desire to improve experimental design and reporting, and to further implementation of the 3Rs, the NC3Rs has carried out a systematic and detailed survey to assess the quality of reporting, experimental design and statistical analysis of published research using laboratory animals.

Co funded by the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, the survey included studies reporting original research on rats, mice and non-human primates carried out in publicly funded research establishments in the UK and the USA using procedures licensed by the UK Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act or equivalent institutional guidelines for animal care and use.

Detailed information was collected on the numbers and characteristics of the animals used and details of the experimental design, and statistical and analytical methods. The results of the survey were published in PLoS ONE in November 2009.

Only 59% of the 271 randomly chosen articles included all three of the following important pieces of information: the hypothesis or objective of the study; the number of animals used; and characteristics of the animals (i.e., species/strain, sex, and age/weight).

Most of the papers surveyed did not report using randomisation (87%) or blinding (86%) to reduce bias in animal selection and outcome assessment.

Only 70% of the publications that used statistical methods fully described them and presented the results with a measure of precision or variability.


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