Better reporting of animal tests needed to maximise their benefits

Poor reporting of animal experiments can limit their value in providing robust evidence to inform future studies and the wider knowledge base.

Dr Nathalie Percie du Sert from the UK Government funded National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), writing in the current (October) issue of European Heart Journal calls for more rigorous reporting when the results of animal experiments are published to enable and improve systematic reviews.

A systematic review is an evaluation of the literature which identifies and appraises studies relevant to a specific research question. They are commonplace in clinical research but are not widely used in the analysis of animal studies, partly because of the poor reporting of animal experiments. The NC3Rs has previously reviewed the quality of reporting of animal experiments, highlighting areas where significant improvement could be made, including greater information on the design and conduct of studies.

Dr Percie du Sert said: "62 journals have already endorsed the guidelines we have published to improve the reporting of animal experiments; their widespread adoption is essential for raising the quality of animal research, enabling better retrospective analysis of studies and ultimately maximising translation for human benefit."

Poor reporting restricts the utility of systematic reviews because it prevents a rigorous quality assessment of the studies included in such reviews and limits opportunities to get more information from the data available. If information such as the sex, age and strain of animals used, or how treatments are given, is not included, then it is impossible to evaluate the impact of these factors and this ultimately can give misleading conclusions. For example, a treatment may affect males and females differently or have different adverse effects in young and old animals.

To improve the reporting of animal experiments the NC3Rs has published guidelines called ARRIVE (Animal Research: Reporting In Vivo Experiments) which describe the minimum information that should be included in a manuscript, ensuring that studies are reported in a clear and comprehensive manner, reflecting the study design, conduct and analysis. The guidelines have been adopted by a range of bioscience journals and the UK's major research funders.

 

Notes to Editors:

  1. For more information contact the NC3Rs media office
  2. Systematic review and meta-analysis of preclinical research: the need for reporting guidelines, by Dr Nathalie Percie du Sert is published in European Heart Journal 2011, vol 32, page 2340. The URL upon publication will be http://eurheartj.oxfordjournals.org/content/32/19/2333.full  A pre-publication pdf of the article is available from the NC3Rs.
  3. (1) Kilkenny C, Parsons N, Kadyszewski E, Festing MF, Cuthill IC, Fry D, Hutton J, Altman DG. Survey of the quality of experimental design, statistical analysis and reporting of research using animals. PLOS One 2009;4(11):e7824. 
  4. The NC3Rs is a scientific organisation which leads the discovery, development and promotion of new ways to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research and testing (the 3Rs). It is primarily supported by Government, but also receives funding from the charitable and industrial sectors. The centre has an annual budget of approximately £5.5 million and is the UK’s major funder of 3Rs research. Further information about the NC3Rs can be found at www.nc3rs.org.uk 
  5. The NC3Rs ARRIVE guidelines are at www.nc3rs.org.uk/ARRIVE 
  6. The European Heart Journal is the flagship journal of the European Society of Cardiology. It is published on behalf of the ESC by Oxford Journals, a division of Oxford University Press. Please acknowledge the journal as a source in any articles. 

 

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