2018 in review: the top NC3Rs news of the year

As ever, 2018 has been a year full of activity for the NC3Rs. Our website’s news and blogs section has featured 38 posts this year covering a range of important 3Rs topics. In this post, we’re reflecting on the past twelve months by revisiting the ten most popular news stories and blog posts published throughout the year.

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1. How to decide your sample size when the power calculation is not straightforward

Statistics continues to be an area of significant interest to our audience, and this guest blog post by GSK Statistics Leader Dr Simon Bate was 2018’s most popular by a significant margin. In his post, Dr Bate shares answers to commonly asked questions about statistics and the 3Rs, including the importance of power analyses, how to determine effect size and why P-hacking is a problem.

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2. International 3Rs Prize awarded for computer modelling that predicts human cardiac safety better than animal studies

Every year the announcement of our International 3Rs Prize winner attracts many visitors to our website and 2018 was no exception. Dr Elisa Passini and colleagues at the University of Oxford and Janssen Pharmaceutica were awarded this year’s prize, sponsored by GSK and totalling £30k. Their winning paper describes an in silico ‘drug trial’ that predicted cardiotoxicity more accurately than animal studies. The prize was presented to Dr Passini in March 2018 at a London award ceremony.

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3. Introductory training on the 3Rs: time for a fresh approach

Providing in vivo researchers and animal technicians with adequate training in the 3Rs is vital for ensuring the principles are thoroughly implemented. In September 2018, we launched a new video presentation on the 3Rs and their scientific importance, which is freely available online for use in training. Read our blog post to learn more about why we developed this resource and how it can help you.

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4. Tail handling reduces the value of reward in laboratory mice

A study by BBSRC-funded researchers at Newcastle University, published in Scientific Reports, found that laboratory mice who are picked up by the tail exhibit more anhedonic responses than tunnel-handled mice. This makes them less responsive to reward, which has significant implications for both their welfare and the design and interpretation of scientific studies. This work provides further validation of tunnel handling as a refined, non-aversive mouse handling method.

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5. New checklists to support the assessment of welfare standards in overseas research

We support UK funding bodies to implement the 3Rs through our peer review and advice service. To ensure rodent research carried out overseas is conducted to appropriate standards of welfare, we previously developed a simple checklist for funders to incorporate into their application submission and peer review processes. This year we released new checklists to assess the use of seven additional species in overseas research.

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6. Meet the 'locals'! The NC3Rs Regional Programme Managers share their experience

As part of our commitment to helping universities implement the 3Rs, in late 2016 we recruited two Regional Programme Managers covering six universities across the Midlands, Yorkshire and the North West of England. In this blog post, Dr Kamar Ameen-Ali and Dr Emma Stringer describe their role and what it’s like to work ‘on the ground’ within universities.

Since this post was published we have added two more Regional Programme Managers to our team, covering the GW4 Alliance and the University of Oxford, with more new roles planned for 2019.

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7. New platform to maximise the 3Rs impact of NC3Rs-funded research

In May 2018 we launched the NC3Rs gateway, a new open-access portal on the F1000 publication platform dedicated to the 3Rs. The gateway allows NC3Rs grantholders to publish the full technical details of their research, as well as highlighting its 3Rs impact, removing barriers to the wider uptake of new 3Rs technologies and approaches.

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8. Strategy for the revision of the ARRIVE guidelines

We developed the ARRIVE guidelines in 2010 to help improve the transparency and reproducibility of in vivo research through better-quality reporting. Despite widespread endorsement of the guidelines, there is mixed evidence of their impact. With the support of an international working group, we developed a strategy for revising the ARRIVE guidelines with the aim of maximising their uptake, with the revised guidelines due for publication in 2019.

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9. Modelling bone formation and maturation in vitro

NC3Rs-funded researchers from the Universities of Birmingham and Oxford have developed a new self-structuring in vitro model of bone tissue. This model represents the first time that the architecture of real bone has been simulated in vitro and could potentially replace the use of live animals in studies of bone formation and maturation.

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10. Celebrating female researchers for International Women’s Day 2018

Rounding off our top ten is a special blog post marking International Women’s Day 2018. In the post we shine a spotlight on female researchers at different career stages, including NC3Rs grant holders, who are working to advance the 3Rs across a broad range of disciplines.

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