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NC3Rs | 20 Years: Pioneering Better Science

Culture of care

We provide a range of 3Rs resources to encourage the responsible, compassionate and humane use of animals in research, a key feature of a positive research culture.

Publications and events

Support for research institutions and funding organisations

  • Our institutional framework for the 3Rs gives straightforward high-level guidance on encouraging implementation of the 3Rs across an entire institution, along with guidance on how to develop and implement an institutional 3Rs strategy.
  • Our 3Rs self-assessment tools allow institutions and research groups to benchmark their implementation of the 3Rs and receive bespoke feedback and advice across a number of areas relevant to research culture.
  • Local ethical review also works to ensure responsible use of animals in research. We have resources to support both those preparing and reviewing applications to use animals. The RSPCA also published a number of reports relating to promoting a culture of care and further resources for local ethical review.
  • We run a peer review and advice service for other funding organisations. This provides expert 3Rs review of grant applications, mainly those involving specially protected species such as non-human primates, cats and dogs. We have produced tips for applicants going through the review process, as well as checklists for assessing research proposals for the use of animals overseas.

Encouraging replacement approaches

There is a legal and societal expectation that animals will only be used where there is no alternative. This requires researchers to proactively engage in the search for alternatives – practically in terms of scanning the literature for existing replacement opportunities, and experimentally in terms of actively developing new replacement models, tools and technologies. A positive research culture supports the search for alternatives.

Information on the replacement approaches supported by the NC3Rs programmes, including through research and innovation funding, can be found by searching the pages under the 'Our Portfolio' section on the NC3Rs website – it is possible to narrow the search according to research area and technology. Methodological detail on some of the replacement alternatives funded by the NC3Rs can be found on the NC3Rs gateway. We also provide general information on searching for replacement approaches, including links to other relevant organisations.

There are a range of approaches available to replace the use of animals in experiments. This includes the use of human tissue and cells. We work with key stakeholders to increase human tissue use and have provided guidance documents and examples to support this. Anyone using such material is expected to comply with UKRI policy on the responsible use of human and biological samples.

Partial replacement can be achieved using animals of a particular species or life stage that, based on current scientific thinking, are not considered capable of experiencing suffering. This includes invertebrates such as Drosophila, nematode worms and social amoebae, and immature forms of vertebrates. For the latter it is important to ensure that the relevant authorisations are in places as certain life stages are protected by legislation (e.g. in the UK and European Union). As with any animal experiments, when partial replacements are used, it is important to report the findings in line with the ARRIVE 2.0 reporting guidelines