Universities called upon to improve reporting of animal research

In a letter today to a selection of leading UK universities who conduct research with animals, the UK's National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) is calling for endorsement of its benchmark guidelines to ensure all reporting of research with animals is high-quality and transparent.

The NC3Rs has previously 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 could limit their value in informing future scientific studies and policy. In addition, poor reporting can make it difficult to derive the maximum scientific knowledge from animal research and risks the use of additional animals unnecessarily. The NC3Rs ARRIVE guidelines for reporting of experiments with animals have been designed to ensure that data from these studies is fully utilised.

Endorsed by 321 scientific journals, in addition to major funding bodies and learned societies, the ARRIVE guidelines provide a standard framework to improve the way animal studies are reported. They consist of a 20-point checklist that highlights the essential information that should be included in publications such as sample size calculations, using correct statistical analysis, and the avoidance of bias through blinding and randomisation.

Endorsing universities are asked to make a commitment to include the guidelines as part of their institutional policy and as part of research staff training, in addition to making a public statement to show how they are being used as part of research with animals.

Published in PLOS Biology in 2010, the guidelines were developed by NC3Rs in consultation with researchers, statisticians, journal editors and funders.

Dr Vicky Robinson, Chief Executive, NC3Rs said: "The ARRIVE guidelines have generated a lot of interest in the UK and internationally. We need to ensure that this is translated into action, with universities playing a central role in this process. Current research shows there is bias attached to study design by not blinding and randomising. To maximise the impact of the guidelines and to promote higher quality reporting, we are working across the scientific community to ensure these guidelines are adopted and utilised to their full potential. This will minimise the likelihood of unnecessary animal studies."

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Manchester, one of the first UK universities to publicly endorse the ARRIVE Guidelines said: "The University of Manchester recognises the need for the UK bioscience sector to improve the way in which animal research is reported - this will lead to better quality science and more effective work with animals in research. The ARRIVE Guidelines will help reinforce the University of Manchester's high standards of animal research practice and provide an ideal framework to ensure that experiments that continue to involve animals are robust in both their design and reporting."


Notes to Editors:

For further information please contact the NC3Rs media office.

  1. About the ARRIVE Guidelines: The Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments (ARRIVE) Guidelines were developed as part of an NC3Rs initiative to improve the design, analysis and reporting of research using animals – maximising information published and minimising unnecessary studies. The guidelines were published in the online journal PLOS Biology in June 2012 and are currently endorsed by scientific journals, major funding bodies and learned societies.

  2. A full list of endorsing journals, funders and learned societies.

  3. 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 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000412
  4. A survey commissioned by the NC3Rs (published in PLOS One in November 2009 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007824) and co-funded by the National Institutes for Health/Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (NIH/OLAW), found that:
    1. 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).
    2. Most of the papers surveyed did not report using randomisation (87%) or blinding (86%) to reduce bias in animal selection and outcome assessment
    3. Only 70% of the publications that used statistical methods fully described them and presented the results with a measure of precision or variability.
  5. 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.
  6. Supporting material is available to help universities implement the ARRIVE guidelines including a presentation for use in training, examples of how the guidelines can be used in practice, a checklist and a handy pocket-sized reference guide that can be ordered from the NC3Rs.
  7. About the NC3Rs: The NC3Rs is an independent scientific organisation which leads on 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 supported primarily by Government, but also receives funding from the charitable and industrial sectors. The Centre has an annual budget of approximately £6.1 million and is the UK’s major funder of 3Rs research.

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