Vlogging about animal research
Vlogging about animal research
Openness is essential in the animal research sector to promote and retain public trust in our work. Agenda Life Sciences’ approach to openness was to create an innovative vlog series that presents animal facilities in a unique manner.
“The project was about showing people what we need to do to perform animal research in the UK today, and to do so with a very visual, personal and relaxed approach so that it is relatable to people. Our aim was to increase public awareness of animal research by doing something different,” explains Laura Gilbey, Head of Facility Management at Agenda Life Sciences.
Agenda recorded and captured the refurbishment of an old animal facility as it was modernised to meet the high welfare standards of animal research in 2021. The videos capture insights into the expected conditions for housing animals, how welfare measures are considered in practice, and the role of an establishment license holder.
“The videos aren’t just a way of showing the animal facilities, but rather the process and reflection involved in producing high standard facilities. We evoke things like licensing, equipment, biosecurity,” adds Gilbey. “But it is not like a lecture or an educational piece. It is suitable for lay people and members of the public.”
The idea of this vlog series came even before the Discovery Park Research Limited facility was commissioned. As such, it was a real opportunity to get people involved from the start.
“The project was fantastically well received. Discovery Park Research Limited were really keen to be open about what they were doing and everybody involved was happy to allow mobile phones on site, and for videos to be taken,” says Gilbey. “I saw my colleagues embrace the project. We believed in what we were doing and really wanted to get that message across. I could just see how people were getting more enthused as time went on. Nobody was worried about talking about animal research, or having their face associated with images of animals in that research setting. They were more concerned about how they looked or sounded on camera.
“That surprised me, I thought people would be a little bit more reticent to get involved in the videos. It just shows how much things have evolved and how important it is to try new things. If I hadn’t tried, if I hadn’t asked, I would have never found out. I think people shouldn’t be put off and shouldn’t assume others will be nervous about talking about animal research. On the contrary, be the person that encourages others. You’ll always get someone who tells you it’s a bad idea, but when they actually see the final project, many will come around.”
In the event, Agenda Life Sciences got nothing but positive feedback. They had prepared for some negative comments but none arose.
“We expected one or two challenges, but we really didn’t receive anything negative at all,” says Gilbey. “People shared it, liked it, mentioned it. It has been a great conversation starter. People, whether in our industry or not, generally want to learn and see more.”
Agenda Life Sciences received aUAR Openness Award for their vlog series. The judging committee was impressed by the honesty of the piece, showing that everything is not perfect all the time and that sometimes there is a need to update and change spaces and practices. Previously this type of information would have been available to a few insiders, but these videos have shown that it can be made openly available to anyone who is interested in how animal facilities are designed and run.
“We’ve always championed openness,” explains Gilbey. “Every year we try and do at least one project which is focused on communicating what animal research is to the public. This was the first opportunity to show people what we do in video format. And we will continue to do so in the future.”
In recognizing these achievements, UAR hopes to share and encourage similar efforts to talk about animal research, so that other organisations in our sector go even further towards being open and transparent about their work.