New guidelines for reporting research

2 July 2010

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Category: Communications & media

plos–logo.jpgThe National Centre for the Reduction, Refinement, and Replacement of animals in research (NC3Rs) has published a list of guidelines for scientists to follow when reporting the results of research involving animals.

The guidelines, called ARRIVE (Animals in Research: Reporting In Vivo Experiments), aim to improve the quality of reporting, as recent studies have revealed weaknesses in the current system. Our Chief Executive, Dr Simon Festing addressed some of these problems in an article in New Scientist last month:

‘The accusation is that animal experiments are too often poorly designed, conducted, reported and reviewed.... The use of animals is a privilege, and must always be undertaken responsibly. We must therefore face up to these criticisms and assess what needs to be done.'

Simon Festing (New Scientist article)

The new guidelines aim to address the problem that many research papers do not include enough information to allow in-depth critique and avoid duplication of studies. This effectively reduces the value of the study and therefore has implications for science, and its reputation.

‘Research using animals continues to be an important part of bringing treatments from the laboratory bench to the patient's bedside, but it's crucial that the results of this work are transparent, accessible and open to scrutiny to the scientific community and beyond.'

Steve Brown, Director of the Medical Research Council's Mammalian Genetics Unit.

Prepared in consultation with scientists, statisticians, journal editors, and research funders, the ARRIVE guidelines describe the minimum information that all publications should include when reporting research involving animals. These include the species, gender, strain of the animals, details of their housing, and information regarding the experimental methods used.

‘While there are plenty of well-conducted studies out there, ideally every research project - whether using animals or not - should be well-designed and the results analysed using the most appropriate statistical method.'

Simon Festing (New Scientist article)

The guidelines aim to make it easier for scientists to determine the validity and significance of the results of animal research studies. Vicky Robinson (Chief Executive at NC3Rs) also points out:

‘These new guidelines should ensure the science emerging from animal research is maximised and that every animal used counts. Better reporting will allow greater opportunity to evaluate which animal models are useful and which are not.'

Vicky Robinson (New Scientist article)

We agree, and support these guidelines. We hope that ARRIVE becomes as successful and as widely used as the CONSORT guidelines regarding clinical trials (introduced in the 1990s), and leads to improvements in the quality and transparency of reporting of animal research.

‘We hope this marks the start of a sensible and mature discussion about how to improve animal studies to the benefit of both science and welfare. In the past such discussion has been stifled by fear of reprisal from animal activists.'

Simon Festing (Understanding Animal Research)