The Experimental Design Assistant (EDA) is a free online tool from the NC3Rs, designed to guide researchers through the design of their experiments, helping to ensure that they use the minimum number of animals consistent with their scientific objectives, methods to reduce subjective bias, and appropriate statistical analysis.
In 2009, we published a survey of the peer-reviewed literature which assessed the quality of publicly funded animal research in the US and the UK. The survey identified areas for improvement in:
Reporting of studies
In response to the survey, we produced guidelines for the reporting of animal experiments – the ARRIVE guidelines, which were published in 2010 and subsequently endorsed by many journals, research funders, universities and learned societies. The ARRIVE guidelines were recently revised, with the updated version - ARRIVE 2.0 - published in 2020.
To build on this work and provide further support to improve the quality of animal experiments, we developed the EDA which was launched in 2015. The EDA is developed in collaboration with an expert working group and Certus Technology, a company which specialises in innovative software for the life sciences.
How does the EDA further the implementation of the 3Rs?
Good experimental design can minimise animal use in two ways:
By accounting for the influence of variables and addressing sources of bias, an adequately designed experiment will yield robust and reproducible data, ensuring that the data from every animal is utilised to its full potential.
An efficient use of statistics can reduce the number of animals required and maximise the information obtained per experiment. More complex designs, for example, can help researchers identify factors which influence the experimental results, providing more information about the model they are using.