Standing up for animal research

Posted: by Mia Rozenbaum on 2/07/24

Standing up for animal research

During the 2023 “mice in research week”, the Babraham Institute seized the opportunity to carry out a technician-led “Mice in Research” Instagram takeover of the UAR account. Aimee Paterson, the Small Animal Facility Supervisor at the Babraham Institute, brought her colleagues together to share the work of the institute. The Babraham Institute undertakes fundamental research to understand human biology and create the foundation for strategies to improve health, especially as we age. Aimee showed great courage in allowing her name and face to appear on social media as a representative of animal research, and for this she received the inaugural Professor Sir Colin Blakemore Memorial Award.

The Babraham Instagram takeover opened the door to the institute’s animal unit, explaining how mice are cared for and how they are used in research at the institute, with a focus on the special population of aged mice. It was an opportunity for Aimee to show off her skills, her work, and the animals she cares for:

“I’m a massive animal lover, and that’s why I’m an animal technician. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about our role. I wanted to show just how important technicians are to research. We are all animal lovers with a high level of education and experience, dedicated to the care of animals. We should be proud of what we do.”

Technicians were at the front of the stage for this takeover, showcasing their important role in research and their dedication to animal welfare. Aimee explained:

“Technicians are too often the silent actors in the background of research. It can be hard to explain what we do. Physically seeing it changes that. It’s been nice to show our friends and family what we do, how much we care, and how much we put into improving our standards for the animals.”

Aimee and Amrita Openness Awards 2023For her leadership in coordinating the facility’s participation in the Instagram takeover, a colleague of Aimee’s, Louisa Wood, nominated her for the inaugural Professor Sir Colin Blakemore Memorial Award. Impressed by how Aimee opened the doors to the institute’s lab, and placed herself in front of a very public and uncontrolled audience, UAR was absolutely delighted to award Aimee a prize that recognises an individual from a signatory organisation who has worked to improve public understanding of how and why animals are used in the UK. Aimee’s exemplary courage and dedication to showcasing animal research reflect the spirit of this award.

“We are really proud of our animal techs,” comments Dr Louisa Wood, Head of Communications at the Babraham Institute. “Providing a platform where people could see them, their work and the animal facility was particularly important to us. It was a team effort, but Aimee’s willingness and enthusiasm really made it a reality. Her personality shone bright.”

From an institutional perspective, the takeover was another opportunity to engage with the public, something the Babraham Institute does really well. “The Institute has a thriving public engagement programme. We already offer on- and off-site virtual tours of the facility but this was the first time we got to show the daily checks of the mice in a face-to-camera format,” explains Louisa. “It allowed us to go above and beyond what we already do to invite the public to engage with our work.”

The Instagram takeover format also allows for two-way engagement. The public can interact almost live with the researchers and technicians in a Q and A session. “It’s a scary idea to do something that you've never done before, but I’m always quite happy to try out new things, learn, and grow,” said Aimee. “We’ve had a lot of positive feedback and engagement. Since then, I’ve even had another animal facility in the area contact me for advice.”

The experience is destined to be repeated according to Louisa: “It will definitely grow. The takeover really inspired people to reflect on what they’d like to include in their role. We’re already seeing the fruits of this with increased participation of animal technicians in our public engagement and communications activities.” The UAR team are thrilled to see more technicians taking bravely stepping forward to engage with the public.


The Professor Sir Colin Blakemore Award

Professor Sir Colin Blakemore was a staunch supporter of openness and didn’t shy away from talking about his work to anyone who would listen. Colin was the recipient of UAR’s very first Openness Award in 2014, and his bravery in continuing to talk about the importance of research using animals in the face of animal rights extremism was an inspiration to many. In memory of Colin, with the blessing of his family and with funding from the Biomedical Research Education Trust, the Professor Sir Colin Blakemore Memorial Award recognises an individual from a signatory organisation who has worked to improve public understanding of how and why animals are used in the UK. This award is about recognising individuals who are supporting openness by sticking their heads above the parapet, being brave, and doing something in their own name. There are hundreds of individuals doing lots of small things to push openness forwards, who aren’t being recognised for their hard work, and this award is about them.


Read more on Openness in animal research:

Last edited: 2 July 2024 13:19

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