New findings from Queen Mary University of London reveal experimental flaws and a lack of transparent reporting is compromising the quality of animal studies and their potential to translate into the clinic.
The research, published today in PLOS Biology, was based on a review of over 200 scientific journals reporting on animal studies in the field of neuroimmunology. All the journals who published the papers have endorsed the ARRIVE (Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments) guidelines.
Published in 2010 by the UK's National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), the ARRIVE guidelines set out the minimum information required to maximise the results obtained from animal studies and avoid unnecessary animal use. They are endorsed by scientific journals, major funding bodies, learned societies and universities.
Only 4% of top-tier journals were found to report the appropriate use of statistics in animal research and fewer than one in 10 studies reported methods which avoid experimental bias, such as randomisation. The survey investigated the statistical methods used and the depth of reporting across ethical review, study design, details of the animals used and sample size estimation.
David Baker, Professor of Neuroimmunology at Queen Mary University of London, said: "Our research indicates the credibility of animal research is being threatened by inappropriate study design and a severe lack of balanced reporting in animal research studies. Failing to report the fundamental basics can result in the study being unusable and is ultimately a sad waste of animal life.
"It is clear from these findings that authors, reviewers and journal editors are failing to implement the ARRIVE guidelines and report animal research adequately. This has negative effects on the potential of research to inform future scientific studies and translate into meaningful therapies for patients. Only by implementing these guidelines fully can journals ensure they publish research that meets these standards and lead to patient benefits."
Dr Vicky Robinson, Chief Executive of the NC3Rs, said: "We welcome these findings as they serve a timely reminder that signing up to the ARRIVE guidelines alone is not enough. Developing the guidelines and encouraging their uptake is just the first step in changing an entire culture of practice around the reporting of animal research.
"Our strategy has first and foremost been centred on encouraging the scientific community to adopt the ARRIVE guidelines. Over 330 journals have now signed up along with a growing body of learned societies, universities and all the major UK funders. It will take some time before these guidelines take full effect, and there is more to be done right across the scientific community as we work with journals and other organisations to facilitate the implementation of ARRIVE in practice."
Notes to Editors:
For further information please contact
- The NC3Rs media office.
- Charli Scouller, PR Manager (School of Medicine and Dentistry), Queen Mary University of London. firstname.lastname@example.org. 020 7228 7943
Baker D., Lidster K., Sottomayor A., Amor S. (2014). Two Years Later: Journals Are Not Yet Enforcing the ARRIVE Guidelines on Reporting Standards for Pre-Clinical Animal Studies. PLOS Biology http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001756
About the ARRIVE Guidelines: The ARRIVE (Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments) guidelines were developed as part of an NC3Rs-led initiative to improve the design, analysis and reporting of research using animals – maximising information published and minimising unnecessary studies. The guidelines were published in PLOS Biology in June 2010 having been developed as part of collaboration with researchers, statisticians, funders and journal editors. They are suitable for any area of bioscience research where animals are used and provide a 20-point checklist for those preparing or reviewing a manuscript intended for publication.
About the NC3Rs: The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) leads discovery and application of new technologies and approaches to minimise the use of animals and improve animal welfare (the 3Rs). It funds research, supports training and development, and stimulates changes in regulations and practice. Primarily funded by Government, the NC3Rs is also supported by the charitable and private sectors. It works with scientists in universities and industry in the UK and internationally.
About Queen Mary University of London: Queen Mary University of London is one of the UK's leading research-focused higher education institutions with 17,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students. A member of the Russell Group, QM is amongst the largest of the colleges of the University of London. QM’s 4,000 staff deliver world-class degrees and research across 21 academic departments and institutes, within three Faculties: Science and Engineering; Humanities and Social Sciences; and the School of Medicine and Dentistry. Queen Mary is ranked 11th in the UK according to the Guardian analysis of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, and has been described as ‘the biggest star among the research-intensive institutions’ by the Times Higher Education. In 2012, a Queen Mary study was awarded Research Project of the Year at the Times Higher Education Awards. The university has been nominated again in 2013. In 2014, Queen Mary was positioned 35th among 130 UK universities in the Complete University Guide and 36th according to the Guardian University Guide. The 2013-4 QS World Rankings placed us 115th of 700 universities worldwide and 19th in the UK, while the 2013 Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic Rankings of World Universities placed us in the top 30 in the UK and in the top 201-300 bracket worldwide. QM has a strong international reputation, with around 20 per cent of students coming from over 150 countries. The university has an annual turnover of £350m, research income worth £100m, and generates employment and output worth £700m to the UK economy each year. QM is unique amongst London's universities in being able to offer a completely integrated residential campus, with a 2,000-bed award-winning Student Village on its Mile End campus.