The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) has called on universities to commit to improving their reporting of animal research.
In letters to a selection of UK universities, due to be sent on 26 September, the centre calls on institutions to endorse its guidelines to ensure all reporting of research with animals is high quality and transparent.
Inadequate reporting of research in scientific literature hinders its contribution to knowledge and leads to unnecessary use of animals, said Vicky Robinson, chief executive of the centre. “If you don’t provide the full information about how a study was designed, conducted and analysed, how do peer reviewers know that the findings are robust and real?” she added.
Poor reporting means other scientists struggle to repeat or build on research, Dr Robinson said. “And importantly, from an NC3Rs perspective, studies that are poorly designed waste animals, and if you can’t build on the work, those animals have been wasted too,” she said.
The number of scientific procedures carried out on animals in the UK has risen steadily over the past decade, with Home Office figures showing that more than 4 million were conducted in 2012, an increase of 8 per cent on the previous year.
The NC3Rs developed the Animal Research: Reporting In Vivo Experiments, or “Arrive”, guidelines following a 2009 study that substantiated “a strong anecdotal feeling” that not all animal studies were well designed or reported, Dr Robinson said.
Already endorsed by 321 scientific journals, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, the guidelines include a checklist of information that researchers should include in published articles, such as sample-size calculations, correct statistical analysis, animal housing details and how bias is avoided through blind testing and randomisation.
Getting the backing of universities would be a crucial step in encouraging researchers to improve reporting “from the ground up”, Dr Robinson said, and endorsing institutions would be asked to include the guidelines in their research staff training.
Dame Nancy Rothwell, vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester, the first UK university to publicly endorse the guidelines, said her institution recognised 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,” she said.