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.