A national survey of scientists who use animals in their research has been launched by the NC3Rs to coincide with the release by the Home Office of the statistics on animal research for 2006. The aim of the survey is to find out what researchers know about the 3Rs (replacement, refinement and reduction) in animal research and how relevant they are to their daily working lives.
The survey has been designed for the NC3Rs by People Science & Policy (PSP). The Home Office are ensuring the ability to participate in the survey is available to all those who hold licences to carry out animal research and testing, either for entire research projects, or as individuals. Researchers who work in universities and pharmaceutical companies are among those who will be invited to give their views.
Tim Watson, communications manager for the NC3Rs, said: "The continued rise in the number of animals used is disappointing, but there are increased efforts to find alternatives across the whole scientific community. The major challenge is in the academic community where research that requires whole animals to model disease is most common. The approach of the NC3Rs is to get researchers together to think creatively about how they might carry out their research without animals and even if immediate solutions are not available, we can identify areas for future research to develop alternative technologies.
"The rise also highlights the importance of refining animal use to reduce pain and suffering. If the case for animal use is still strong in a particular area then extra focus should be placed on exactly how the animals are used in experiments and how suffering can be minimised. Our survey will tell us how this is currently happening and whether more work is needed.
"The 3Rs concept of replacement, refinement and reduction underpins the humane use of animals in research, but at the moment we don't even know what proportion of researchers have heard of the 3Rs or what they understand them to mean. We also want to go further and find out whether they think progress can be made in reducing the use of animals and if there are any barriers that the NC3Rs can address to maximise future progress.
"Anecdotally, there is wide variation in how aware researchers are of the 3Rs. While some scientists share our view that applying the 3Rs benefits their science as well as the animals, we want to hear directly from all those who work with animals across the UK. Understanding their needs will help us target our resources most effectively."
Following launch, the data gathering part of the survey will be carried out over the next three months. The aim is to get as many of those who use animals in their research to take part in order to get as accurate a picture as possible. An expert steering group has been appointed by the NC3Rs to assist in analysing the results of the survey and the final report will be published in spring 2008.