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NC3Rs | 20 Years: Pioneering Better Science
Guidance

Peer review and advice service

Working with research funding bodies to embed the 3Rs in their policies and practice.

Introduction

We work with research funding bodies to embed the 3Rs in their policies and practice. This includes reviewing research proposals and developing guidelines. These activities help to ensure that animal welfare standards are genuinely high and exceed the legal minima, and overseas work is conducted to standards equivalent to those in the UK.

Peer review of research proposals

We review grant applications for 28 funding organisations, including UKRI Research Councils and members of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), where these propose to use the following species:

  • Non-human primates
  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Equines 
  • Pigs (BBSRC and a minority of other funders only).

Other research proposals that raise special concerns can also be referred to the NC3Rs on a case-by-case basis. 

We advise on opportunities to implement the 3Rs, raise specific animal welfare concerns, highlight where good practice is not being adopted, and monitor implementation of specific policies and guidance. This advice is used during decisions on funding and when drafting the terms and conditions of grant awards.

Supporting good practice through guideline development

Working with funders, we have published guidelines to promote high standards in the design, conduct, analysis and reporting of animal research. Compliance with the principles in each of the following guidelines is a condition of receiving funds for animal research:

Examples of the 3Rs impacts that our review and guidelines have achieved can be found in Table 2 of the NC3Rs Evaluation Framework report.

Choosing contractors for animal research outside of the UK

UK funders expect high standards in animal research regardless of geographical location. This includes meeting or exceeding UK standards of animal welfare and ensuring 
appropriate experimental design for preclinical studies at contract research organisations (CROs).

Applicants are responsible for obtaining sufficient information to be confident that any CROs meet the requirements of the funding body. 

The guidance available to download below is primarily for those contracting work using animals for drug development studies outside of the UK, however the principles also apply to any work conducted overseas as part of a collaboration. 

Checklists of additional questions on the use of animals overseas

All researchers funded by the MRC, BBSRC, EPSRC, NERC, NC3Rs, Defra, Wellcome Trust and other AMRC charities, who use animals, are required to implement the guidance ‘Responsibility in the Use of Animals in Bioscience Research’ as a condition of grant funding. A key principle (page 14) is the expectation that research conducted overseas should be carried out to welfare standards consistent with those in the UK.

For studies using non-human primates, cats, dogs or equines, this is assessed during an NC3Rs review of research proposals. 

For studies involving other species, applicants should complete the relevant checklist(s) available for download below. Include the completed checklist(s) within your application for consideration by the funder’s review panel. 

For animal research overseas, some research councils require a signed statement from both the UK and overseas principal investigators – see the MRC and BBSRC websites for details.

Useful resources for applicants