A trans-Atlantic transparency gap on animal experiments
This article was originally published in Science on 14 July 2017
The launch last month of a website called LabAnimalTour.org, which showcases animal experiments at several prominent institutions in the United Kingdom, is part of a trend toward increasing openness by researchers in a country that 2 decades ago was riven by sometimes-violent animal rights activism.
Since 2014, 116 life sciences organizations in the United Kingdom have signed onto a Concordat on Openness on Animal Research that commits them to communicating frankly and in detail about their animal experiments. Ninety Spanish institutions adopted a similar pledge last year, and universities in Belgium, France, and Germany are talking about moving in the same direction.
The new approach stands in stark contrast to many U.S. universities, where administrators are reluctant to display and defend their animal work. In an online compendium developed by the nonprofit group Speaking of Research, just 65 U.S. academic centers are listed as having a public-facing web page dedicated to explaining their animal experiments and why they are needed—and more than half of these receive low grades for lacking user-friendly material. In the face of a recent Gallup poll in which U.S. public acceptance of animal research has hit a new low, transparency advocates are pushing U.S. academic institutions to open up.