New guidelines to improve the reporting of animal experiments have been published in the journal PLOS Biology and five other journals1. Poor reporting makes it difficult to derive the maximum scientific knowledge from animal research and risks the use of additional animals unnecessarily.
Animal research is one of the most controversial areas of science. Previous work by the NC3Rs2 has shown that many publications reporting publicly funded animal research from the UK and US lack key information on how the study was designed, conducted and analysed, which limits their value in informing future scientific studies and policy.
The ARRIVE (Animal Research: Reporting In Vivo Experiments) guidelines have been developed by the NC3Rs to improve standards of reporting and ensure that the data from animal experiments can be fully scrutinised and utilised. The guidelines are aimed at scientists writing up their research for publication or involved in peer review.
Developed in consultation with the scientific community, including researchers, statisticians, journal editors, and funders of animal research, the guidelines consist of a 20-point checklist of the essential information that should be included in publications reporting animal research. ARRIVE has already been endorsed by a number of leading scientific journals3, along with the major funders of animal research in the UK4.
Universities and Science Minister David Willetts MP said: "These guidelines are a significant step by the NC3Rs in improving the reporting of the use of animals in research published by UK scientists. Better reporting of research means better quality science and should lead to the more effective use of animals in experiments. I expect the guidance and the work of the NC3Rs to make a valuable contribution to delivering the coalition agreement commitment to work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research."
Dr Vicky Robinson, chief executive of the NC3Rs, said: "Scientists using animals in their research, particularly those funded from the public purse, have a responsibility to fully report how they design, conduct and evaluate their experiments. Without this fundamental information, results have limited value for advancing science, and there is a risk of wasting money and using animals unnecessarily.
"We have previously shown that some animal research is poorly reported, which is why we have developed the ARRIVE guidelines. There has already been an excellent response from the scientific community, including journal editors, and we will build on this to transform the way animal research is reported."
Notes to Editors:
- The PLOS Biology article which includes the guidelines in full is: Kilkenny C, Browne WJ, Cuthill IC, Emerson M, Altman DG (2010). Improving Bioscience Research Reporting: The ARRIVE Guidelines for Reporting Animal Research. PLOS Biol 8(6): e1000412
- The guidelines are also appearing in the following five journals, in some cases with accompanying editorials:
- A survey, commissioned by the NC3Rs and co-funded by the National Institutes for Health/Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (NIH/OLAW), found that:
- 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.
- Endorsing the guidelines, the following journals (in addition to those listed above) have incorporated them into the instructions they provide for authors:
- PLOS Biology
- PLOS Computational Biology
- PLOS Genetics
- PLOS Medicine
- PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
- PLOS ONE
- PLOS Pathogens
- Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism
- Journal of Neurochemistry
- FEBS Journal
- The UK's major bioscience funders, including the MRC, BBSRC, Defra, NERC and the Wellcome Trust, have incorporated adherence to the guidelines into a revised version of 'Responsibility in the use of animals in bioscience research: Expectations of the major research council and charitable funding bodies' which was originally published in May 2008.