Essay competition challenge to think beyond animal research

The head of the government-funded NC3Rs calls for futuristic ideas for reducing animal use over the next three decades.

The NC3Rs and New Scientist magazine today launch an essay competition 'Beyond animal research'. The competition celebrates 50 years of the 3Rs principles Replacement, Reduction and Refinement.

The competition asks New Scientist readers to imagine what advances in science and technology, 20 or 30 years from now, will reduce (or even replace) the use of animals. The winner will receive £2000 and their essay will be published in New Scientist magazine and online at

Dr Vicky Robinson, chief executive of NC3Rs, explains: "A future where animals are no longer required for research and safety testing is hard to imagine. Many believe this vision is more science fiction than science fact, and that it may be impossible to ever truly replicate the complexity of a whole organism in the laboratory. However, this is no reason for complacency, as embracing this challenge can drive scientific progress and stimulate innovative approaches to reducing animal use.

"To create a research environment with reduced reliance on animals, we need to be ambitious, and predict what technologies we might need to get there. Technologies such as tissue engineering, stem cells and computer modelling have huge potential to reduce animal use and will undoubtedly contribute. But how do we ensure they are fully exploited and do they provide the entire solution? What are the developments outside the biological sciences that could be applied to help replace animal use?"

Roger Highfield, editor of New Scientist, said: "What a fantastic aim for the future: to create a model of a human, via computing or new biology, that is so good we no longer need to rely on mice and other animals for research. We want to hear your ideas about how to make this vision reality."

Applicants are asked to submit a 650 word article in a lively, entertaining and informative style suitable for New Scientist, letting their imagination run wild to think about novel opportunities for replacing or reducing the use of animals in research. Roger Highfield will be chairing the judging panel and anyone can apply, but entries are particularly encouraged from undergraduate, postgraduate and post-doctoral scientists and science communicators.


Notes for editors:

The 3Rs principles

  • The 3Rs were first described in 'The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique' by William Russell and Rex Burch, which was published in 1959. The authors were commissioned to write the book by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's 'The Origin of Species'.
  • The 3Rs concept is found in both UK and European legislation governing the use of animals in research, and reflects the consensus view that alternatives to animals should be used where possible and that suffering should be minimised where alternatives are not yet available.

Subscribe to our newsletter