A study by the European Animal Research Association (EARA), of websites of biomedical research bodies in Spain, assessing how they discuss research using animals, has found that the sector needs to continue to make progress towards an acceptable level of openness and transparency in animal research.
EARA assessed a total of 189 institutional websites in Spain, during 2018, both public and private bodies, such as universities and pharmaceutical companies, and a rating system was developed to analyse the data. The main findings were that:
- A large majority of institutions (84%) conducting animal research carry a recognisable statement on their websites explaining the use of animals in research/animal welfare.
- However, just under two in five of the websites assessed (38%) meet the criterion for providing ‘more information’, for instance by including the kind of animals used.
- Fewer than one in five (18%) of the websites can be considered to have prominent mentions of animal research – such as recognisable statements within three clicks of the homepage.
Currently, efforts to improve openness in Spain are co-ordinated through the Transparency Agreement on Animal Research in Spain (‘Acuerdo de transparencia sobre el uso de animales en experimentación científica en España’) which was launched by the Spanish Confederation of Scientific Societies (COSCE), with the collaboration of EARA, and has been adhered to by more than 130 institutions.
A total of 1,219 institutional websites within the EU were assessed and the findings from the EARA Study of EU-based websites 2018 have now been presented to the EU Commission, which is currently examining the findings.
In comparison to Spain, the percentage of institutions that displayed a statement on the use of animals in research in other countries was – France 32%, Germany 34%, Italy 39% and UK 95%.
EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “The biomedical sector in Spain has made good progress through the transparency agreement, but much more can be done. Institutions should make greater use of all the opportunities to be more accessible and to be more transparent with the public.
“Our view is that the websites of the institutions that we assessed will play an increasingly important role in informing members of the public, media, decision-makers and regulators about the use of animals in research, their welfare and the benefits of biomedical science for humans and animals”
The website study has helped EARA identify areas of good practice on communications and openness in the life sciences sector and areas where improvement is needed. It will also help EARA provide guidance on best practice to all its member organisations and the sector as a whole across Europe and build on the advice already given to EARA members in the EARA Communications Handbook.
The study is therefore a tool that can then be used to encourage greater transparency in line with the recommendations made in Section 3 of the Review of Directive 2010/63/EU in November 2017.
Using the documentation
and techniques developed in the course of this study, EARA intends in future
years to revisit the websites involved and chart the improvement (or otherwise)
of the institutional openness of the sector as a whole.
 A further 100 websites from non-EU countries were assessed.