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Swiss researchers hear arguments for openness

EARA’s free event in Zurich, has highlighted the importance of the forthcoming Swiss transparency agreement and its commitment to greater public openness about research using animals.

Members of the Swiss life sciences community heard from a panel of experts from primate research, animal welfare, and science communication on this topic and the steps toward a formal agreement (STAAR) between institutions in Switzerland on openness.

Professor Michael Hottiger, (pictured) molecular biologist and President of Forschung für Leben, rounded off the event by describing the aims and commitments of Swiss Transparency Agreement on Animal Research (STAAR), due to be launched in the new year, which he co-initiated.

‘Such a transparency agreement is a commitment to rigorous and responsible research, and to want people to find more out about animal research.’

Professor Valerio Mante, group leader at the Institute of Neuroinformatics (UZH), meanwhile gave a practical example of his experience of being more proactive when discussing the primate research that he leads.

‘When I talk to people and show them the experiments, their attitudes are always more positive at the end than when they first walked in,’ he said.

This involved producing professional photos and videos including a 24-hour recording of the labs and the enclosures where the monkeys are kept, distributing information about animal research on websites and in talks, and inviting groups such as schools, students, and journalists to discuss the experiments.

Kirk Leech, EARA Executive Director, outlined the past, present, and future pressures facing the European biomedical research community, which demonstrated the need to provide better information to the public.

‘One of the main problems is that there is not a balanced narrative of the use of animals in research,’ he said.

He then went on to discuss the opportunities available to the life sciences community to improve openness, including through social media, non-technical summaries (NTS), and in particular transparency agreements.

‘NTS are a great opportunity to give clarity to why you are doing research to a non-scientific audience.’

Head of Communication at the Swiss Academy of Sciences, Marcel Falk, expanded on the need for transparency.

Marcel advised how researchers that use animals should interact with the media: ‘A lot of people rush into answering, but first be sure that you know which section of the newspaper it will appear in, and find out what kind of story the journalist has in mind.’

The event ended with a panel discussion to answer a broad array of questions including, ‘why don’t you adopt a more emotional approach to communicating about animal research?’ where the panel explained that there is a place for both rationality and emotion communication, where factual information and personal experiences are combined.

The event, at the University of Zurich (UZH), was supported by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN).

Free EARA event on openness in animal research in the Netherlands, this December

The latest in the series of EARA science communications events, supported by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), will take place in Maastricht, the Netherlands, on 11 December.

Maastricht University Medical Centre+, Maastricht, the Netherlands

Improving Openness in Animal Research in the Netherlands is a free event (register here) and will focus on why scientists, researchers, press officers and other stakeholders should talk openly about animal research, but will not be a debate about the ethics of animal experimentation.

It will take place on the Wednesday, 11 December, (13:30 – 17:00 CET) at the University Maastricht and is a public event, although it will be of particular interest to those working in the life sciences sector.

Following the presentations there will be a panel discussion followed by a drinks reception.

Speakers:

Kirk Leech, Executive Director, European Animal Research Association

Kirk is Executive Director of EARA, a communications and advocacy organisation whose mission is to uphold the interests of biomedical, and other life sciences, research and healthcare development across Europe. Previously Kirk worked for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and Understanding Animal Research, the UK’s leading advocacy group on the use of animals in medical research.

Researcher from Maastricht University TBC

A researcher who has worked with animals who has experience talking about their research in the mainstream media.

Sicco de Knecht, Science journalist, ScienceGuide

An experienced science journalist who will give advice on how and why researchers who work with animals should communicate with the mainstream media.

Dr. Andreas Lengeling, Animal Research & Welfare Officer, Max-Planck-Society

Andreas is the animal research and animal welfare officer of the Max-Planck-Society. He is responsible for the implementation of the society’s white paper on animal research. His role involves the support of 32 Max-Planck Institutes in all aspects of animal experimentation and animal welfare. Previously, Andreas has held faculty and group leader positions at the University of Edinburgh (UK) and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig, Germany. He has studied Biology and has obtained a PhD in Genetics at the University of Bielefeld.

Free EARA event on openness in animal research in Portugal, this November

The latest in the series of EARA science communications events, supported by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), will take place in Lisbon, Portugal, on 20 November.

Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, Lisbon, Portugal

Improving Openness in Animal Research in Portugal is a free event (register here) and will focus on why scientists, researchers, press officers and other stakeholders should talk openly about animal research, but will not be a debate about the ethics of animal experimentation.

It will take place on the Wednesday, 20 November, (13:30 – 18:00 WET) at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown and is a public event, although it will be of particular interest to those working in the life sciences sector.

Following the presentations, moderated by Dr. Isabel Campos, Animal Platform Coordinator of Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, there will be a panel discussion followed by a drinks reception.

Speakers:

Kirk Leech, Executive Director, European Animal Research Association

Kirk is Executive Director of EARA, a communications and advocacy organisation whose mission is to uphold the interests of biomedical, and other life sciences, research and healthcare development across Europe. Previously Kirk worked for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and Understanding Animal Research, the UK’s leading advocacy group on the use of animals in medical research.

Dr. Susana Lima, Neuroscientist and Biologist, Champalimaud Center for the Unknown

Susana Lima completed her PhD at Yale in 2005 (under the supervision of Gero Miesenböck) and was subsequently a postdoctoral fellow at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (in Tony Zador’s group) and a research fellow at Champalimuad Center for the Unknown. She became a principal investigator in 2013 and her laboratory uses the house mouse as a model system to investigate the neuronal mechanisms underlying sexual behavior in males and females. Since the beginning of her career, Susana has been interested in openness and transparency about animal research and therefore disseminated her work with the general public in several different formats, including public talks, radio, journals, and magazines.

Sara Sá, Science Journalist, Visão

Sara Sá has been Science and Health journalist at the Portuguese news magazine Visão since the year 2000. She has covered subjects from Cancer and Climate Change, to Genetics and Neurosciences. Sara also contributes to other publications in the editorial group Trus in News, including Visão Júnior, Visão Saúde and Visão História. Her work has been distinguished by the Cancer Journalism Prize (LPCC ), Unesco, and Apifarma. On top of her journalistic work, Sara is also the co-author of the Popular Science book Cem Mitos Sem Lógica.

Dr. Ana Mena, Head of the Science Communication and Outreach Team, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência

After completing her PhD in Cell Biology from the University Nova de Lisboa, Ana Mena worked at the IGC as postdoctoral fellow in science communication, addressing how to raise public awareness about the role of animal research in science. This project included the engagement of scientists in this problematic area, their training to better communicate their research, and the implementation of several communication actions. The strategy of open communication was further continued when she became coordinator of the science communication unit at the IGC in 2012. Ana was also a member of the IGC Ethics Committee, participating in the review of projects involving the use of animals, or of human subjects, from 2010 until 2016.

Statement by EARA on video footage taken from the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology (LPT) in Germany

This is a public statement just issued by EARA, regarding video footage that appeared this week in the media of several European countries. 

The European Animal Research Association (EARA) was established to better inform the European public and political decision makers of the continued need for, and benefits of, the humane use of animals in biomedical research.

The use of animals, including monkeys and dogs, has played an important role in the safety testing of new medicines and chemicals that may affect human health. In addition, under existing EU legislation, safety testing on animals before human trials is a legal requirement.

EARA was shocked and dismayed to see footage taken from inside the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology (LPT) in Hamburg Germany. Whilst the footage has been edited, and we would ask that the unedited footage be made publicly available, what has been shown so far reveals unacceptable animal welfare standards.

The handling subjected to some of the animals, the cages monkeys are held in, and the post-operative conditions that some animals were left in, do not belong in any twenty first century research facility.

EARA was disappointed that LPT has so far refused to answer any of the questions raised by the film, even after EARA has urged them to. Such silence does a disservice to the thousands of researchers and research institutes in Europe involved in the honourable endeavour of biomedical research, and who pay a high regard to animal welfare.

We urge LPT to make a full statement addressing these concerns, and to work with the authorities in its investigation of LPT’s compliance with animal welfare practices and regulations.

Kirk Leech
EARA Executive Director

Free EARA event on openness in animal research in Switzerland, this November

The latest in the series of EARA science communications events, supported by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), will take place in Zurich, Switzerland, on 6 November.

University of Zurich, Switzerland

Improving Openness in Animal Research in Switzerland is a free event (register here) and will focus on why scientists, researchers, press officers and other stakeholders should talk openly about animal research, but will not be a debate about the ethics of animal experimentation.

It will take place on the Wednesday, 6 November, (13:30 – 16:30 CEST) at the University of Zurich (UZH) and is a public event, although it will be of particular interest to those working in the life sciences sector.

Following the presentations, moderated by Dr. Michaela Thallmair, Animal Welfare Officer, of UZH, there will be a panel discussion followed by a drinks reception.

Speakers:

Kirk Leech, Executive Director, European Animal Research Association

Kirk is Executive Director of EARA, a communications and advocacy organisation whose mission is to uphold the interests of biomedical, and other life sciences, research and healthcare development across Europe. Previously Kirk worked for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and Understanding Animal Research, the UK’s leading advocacy group on the use of animals in medical research.

Dr. Valerio Mante, group leader at the Institute of Neuroinformatics, University of Zurich

Valerio Mante is a group leader at the Institute of Neuroinformatics of the University of Zurich and Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zurich, Switzerland. Dr. Mante holds a master’s degree in physics and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from ETH Zurich. For his Ph.D. thesis, where he studied the computational principles of early visual processing in mammals. Subsequently, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Professor Bill Newsome at Stanford University, California. In Stanford, he studied the neural processes underlying context-dependent behaviour, and discovered a new mechanism that allows neural signals to be flexibly gated between different brain areas. Since 2013, he is back in Zurich, where his laboratory focuses on understanding the role of prefrontal cortex in normal and impaired cognition.

A Journalist (TBC)

A journalist from the mainstream media who will give advice on how researchers should engage productively with the media, the importance of engaging with the media, and how communicating with journalists/the media can be beneficial for scientists.

Prof. Michael O. Hottiger, DVM, PhD, Molecular Biologist and President of Forschung für Leben

Michael O. Hottiger is a veterinary by training and obtained his PhD in the field of molecular biology at the University of Zurich (UZH). After postdoctoral studies at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ann Arbor, he became an independent group leader at the Institute of Veterinary Biochemistry of the UZH. He has now a full professorship in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology jointly at the Vetsuisse and the Sciences Faculties of the UZH and is the head of the Department of Molecular Mechanisms of Disease. In his research, Michael O. Hottiger focusses mainly on inflammation-associated diseases. He is since 2012 a member of the Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation and is president of the association ‘Forschung für Leben’ which aims at fostering the dialog between scientist and the public. This year, he co-initiated the ‘Swiss Transparency Agreement on Animal Research’ (STAAR).

Be proud of your research because you are contributing to human health, Spanish audience hears at EARA event

EARA’s latest event in Alicante, this week emphasised the importance of the Spanish Transparency Agreement and being more open with the public about research using animals.

More than 130 people in the life sciences community, from 10 different institutions, heard a panel of experts from neuroscience, animal welfare, and the science media discuss the topic, Improving Openness in Animal Research in Spain.

The event, at the Institute of Neurosciences of Alicante (CSIC-UMH), was supported by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN).

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, provided the background for why there is a need to improve openness in animal research in Spain. He outlined the growing polarisation in public attitudes towards animal research, the need to provide better information to the public, and in turn the importance of the Spanish Transparency Agreement, signed by more than 140 institutions.

‘Transparency agreements bring public and private research together to work to improve openness in animal research,’ he said.

Professor Juan Lerma, neuroscientist at the CSIC-UMH and editor-in-chief of Neuroscience, illustrated the success of the Spanish Transparency Agreement, ‘this agreement has been a role model for other countries,’ he said.

Highlighting the importance of animal research, he emphasised the need for researchers to proactively communicate and educate so that this essential research can continue.

‘You must be proud of your research because you are contributing to human health. This is something we must defend and support,’ he said.

Elaborating on the need for transparency, Dr. Carmen Agustín (pictured), neuroscientist at the Functional Neuroanatomy Lab at Jaume I University and the University of Valencia, talked about her experiences of being actively engaged with the public about her work through blogs, twitter, TV.

Dr. Agustín reassured the audience on being open about their research: ‘Usually people are scared to talk about research on social media as they think they will get a lot of negative feedback, but this is not the case.’

Science journalist, Daniel Mediavilla, of El País, and one of the founders of the science and technology news website, Materia, expanded on engaging with the public.

He described how scientists working with animals can work well with the media, ‘Get familiar with the media, adapt your message to the outlet, know your media environment, and know personally, if possible, all the journalists you should talk to in case of need.’

In addition, he gave advice on how to have a louder voice in the media, ‘Emotions are almost everything, sometimes scientists have to use emotional aids.’

The event ended with a panel discussion to answer a broad array of questions including, ‘How to reach those not interested in science?’ where Dr. Agustín suggested giving talks at events which draw in those who wouldn’t normally attend science events, such as Pint of Science events at pubs and bars.

EARA is looking for Twitter Ambassadors

The European Animal Research Association is looking for Twitter ambassadors in the following countries – Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Lithuania, Latvia Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

An EARA Twitter ambassador is responsible for managing a Twitter account in their own language and providing accurate, evidence-based news and other information on the impact and benefits of animal research.

There are currently EARA Twitter accounts in seven languages, operating in countries including Germany @EARA_DE and Italy @EARA_IT.

Candidates must have a background in biomedical research and are either living in the above-mentioned countries or have worked or studied there previously. They should also be available to start as soon as possible.

This is a paid freelance position. If you are interested in becoming an EARA Twitter Ambassador contact us by e-mail – info@eara.eu.  

Greater numbers of institutions in Spain are explaining their use of animals in scientific research, latest EARA survey reveals

Madrid, 17 September, 2019: The Spanish biomedical sector has made greater strides towards openness about the use of animals in scientific research in the last year than ever before, according to a new report by the European Animal Research Association (EARA).

Among the clear signs of this openness, the survey results from the second annual report (in Spanish) of COSCE (Confederation of Spanish Scientific Societies) Transparency Agreement on Animal Research in Spain, shows that every institution signatory of the Agreement now has a public declaration on their website explaining their policies on the use of animals. 

The Aragon Institute of Health Sciences (IACS) in collaboration with Etopia Center for Art and Technology ,  designed an exhibition based on exploring science through the senses. 

Launched in 2016, the Transparency Agreement on Animal Research in Spain, has been signed by 140 institutions and contains four commitments to provide greater information about the scientific research using animals that they conduct, as well as to improve the level of understanding about the benefits, harms and limitations that animal testing can entail.

The report was conducted by EARA, which along with the Spanish Association for Laboratory Animal Science (SECAL) helped COSCE to develop the Agreement[1].

 “Scientific institutions, in the Agreement, no longer hide or are ashamed about their research with animals and they are clearly explaining to society what their activity is and that they do it ethically,” says Margarita del Val, Vocal of Life and Health Sciences of COSCE.

The report, launched today in Madrid, at CSIC, assesses the progress of institutions towards openness and includes examples and case studies (in Spanish).

Continue reading

Call for Australia and New Zealand biomedical sector to follow Europe and be more open about animal research

‘We are lagging behind on openness about animal research’ say vets and lab technicians.

A survey of Australian and New Zealand vets and technicians who care for animals, used in medical and veterinary research, has shown that most believe scientific institutions should be more open about animal use.

They are also supportive of a public pledge, similar to those found in European countries, to commit Australian and New Zealand institutions to greater openness.

The survey by the Australian and New Zealand Laboratory Animal Association (ANZLAA) of more than 150 people working in animal care has found that 87% believe research institutions in Australia and New Zealand should be more open about their research involving animals.

Speaking at this week’s ANZLAA conference in Perth, Australia, veterinarians Dr Malcolm France and Dr Jodi Salinsky said that 87 per cent of survey respondents wanted research organisations to be more open and would support the development of an ‘openness agreement’ similar to the UK’s successful Concordat on Openness on Animal Research.

Continue reading

Improving welfare of animals used in research: a critical necessity

This article is reprinted from the Utrecht 3Rs newsletter, with the message of Jan Langermans, Professor ‘Welfare of Laboratory Animals’ at Utrecht University and also deputy director of Biomedical Primate Research Centre, Netherlands, on welfare improvement of animals used in research.

More attention to the welfare improvement of laboratory animals. That is the message prof. dr. Jan Langermans wants to propagate. He was recently appointed professor ‘Welfare of Laboratory Animals’ at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University. He will focus on the welfare improvement of larger animals used for scientific purposes.

“In those fields of research where we cannot move forward without laboratory animals, we have to invest in the highest possible welfare standards” says Langermans. “This is an essential part of responsible use of animals for research.” He emphasizes that with refinement, he does not only mean the reduction of pain and discomfort, but also the introduction of positive aspects that contribute to a positive welfare state. For example, simple improvements in food or cage enrichment and creating positive associations with the experimental procedures by means of training can make a huge difference in the quality of life of these animals. Three themes on which he wants to focus are the training of laboratory animals, the introduction of enrichment under experimental conditions and the use of innovative techniques to improve welfare and reduce the number of animals needed for research.

Training both animals and researchers

“An important question that people who work with laboratory animals must continuously ask themselves is: how can we improve the circumstances for these animals?” says Langermans. Continue reading