Good first year for the Concordat on Openness
The first year has been extremely positive and more successful than we had anticipated. In the reports we received from concordat signatories we found dozens of examples of good practice, not only in external communication, but also in changes to internal organisation that will contribute directly to reducing and refining work with animals.
The concordat report gives examples of good practice for each section of the concordat but here we give just a few examples to illustrate the quality and innovation of the work the concordat process has initiated.
Under the first section on harms, benefits and limitations we read that one university has
‘launched a video that goes behind the scenes at an animal research facility, showing how mice are housed and looked after and how they are being used in cancer research. The film shows an anaesthetised mouse undergoing a scan as well as mice carrying human tumour grafts — we felt it would be disingenuous not to show procedures on mice with cancer. The film concludes with an explanation of the 3Rs and showing that our researchers are actively looking for alternatives.’
In another university staff are now being made aware of animal research ‘during the recruitment process.’
One umbrella body organised for its entire staff (10) to visit animal research facilities.
Commitment 2 states we will enhance our communications with the media and public. Here all but a handful of signatories (82/95) now have policy statements on the use of animals in research on their websites, and many have gone much further, including photos, videos, numbers of animals used, FAQs and AWERB minutes.
This is just one example of dozens of press releases that mention animals:http://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/argininedeprivation-linked-to-alzheimers-disease-in-mice/
Many organisations (52%) have also been training their staff to communicate about their work.
Commitment 3 states ‘we will be proactive in providing opportunities for the public to find out about research using animals.’
Many organisations have developed videos, photographs and print materials such as briefing documents and guidance as public-facing materials. There has been an enormous range of outreach activity being undertaken by signatory organisations. Many researchers from both the academic and commercial sectors speak in schools and organisations hold lab visits and have open days for their communities.
These are a few of the more unusual examples. University researchers have taken part in the Edinburgh Fringe and local science festivals addressing the varied issues of the use of animals in research. During the Cambridge Science Festival, a number of public talks included mention of the use of animals in research. In particular, at a day of hands-on, drop-in workshops held at the local theatre, a team from [local pharmaceutical company] showed members of the public the cages used to house mice and discussed how the animals are helping with drug discovery.
The signatories not only met but exceeded our expectations. This exercise has proved enormously encouraging. We are impressed that, far from doing just the minimum, many signatories have displayed effort, enterprise and imagination in the effort to change the public’s hearts and minds.
Download the first annual report on the Concordat on Openness here.