Integrating the 3Rs into publicly funded research

Up to 30% of the research funded by the MRC, BBSRC and Wellcome Trust involves the use of animals. We work with these organisations, and other research council, charitable and private organisations, to embed the 3Rs into their policies and practice. The collaboration focuses on reviewing research proposals and supporting good practice through the development of guidelines. Together these activities help to ensure that animal welfare standards are genuinely high and exceed the legal minima, local issues relating to poor practice are addressed, and overseas work is conducted to standards equivalent to those in the UK. 

Peer review of research proposals

We review research, studentship, fellowship and other grant applications for a number of organisations and member charities of the AMRC where these propose to use non-human primates, dogs, cats and equines. Other research proposals that raise special concerns can also be referred to the NC3Rs for review. Details of the organisations using our peer review service are given below:


We advise on opportunities to implement the 3Rs, raise specific animal welfare concerns, highlight where good practice is not being adopted, and monitor implementation of specific policies and guidance. This advice is used during decisions on funding and when drafting the terms and conditions of grant awards.

Examples of the 3Rs impacts that our review and guidelines have achieved can be found in Table 2 of the NC3Rs Evaluation Framework report. Many of these relate to neuroscience studies using macaques, which account for around half of the grant applications reviewed.

Supporting good practice through guideline development

We have published guidelines to support the funders’ commitment to high standards in the design, conduct, analysis and reporting of animal research.

These include:

  • Responsibility in the Use of Animals in Bioscience Research. All researchers funded by MRC, BBSRC, NERC, NC3Rs, Defra and the Wellcome Trust, who use animals, are required to implement the guidance as a condition of grant funding. A key principle is the expectation that work conducted overseas should be carried out to standards consistent with those in the UK.
  • Primate Accommodation, Care and Use. Researchers using non-human primates funded by the BBSRC, MRC, NC3Rs, Royal Society, Wellcome Trust and other AMRC member charities must comply with these guidelines.
  • ARRIVE Guidelines. Adopted by all the UK’s major funders to improve the reporting of animal experiments.

Choosing contractors for animal research

The NC3Rs has produced a PDF presentation to remind applicants of the animal welfare standards expected by the major UK public funding bodies. Applicants contracting out animal research or collaborating with other laboratories (regardless of species) are advised to view the presentation well in advance of submitting their application, especially if the intention is to place the work outside of the UK.

For further information on these initiatives, please contact Dr Mark Prescott.