The second annual report of the Transparency Agreement on Animal Research in Belgium (TA) shows that biomedical institutions are becoming much better at communicating with the public about their use of animals.
The report (left), published today, assessed the efforts of the 17 signatory institutions of the TA (see end for the full list) from both public and private biomedical research, using a survey which questioned them on their communications activities in 2022.
The implementation of the Agreement, co-ordinated by the European Animal Research Association (EARA) and the Belgian Council for Laboratory Animal Science (BCLAS), is based on four commitments, the first three of which refer to the promotion and improvement of internal and external communications by the signatory institutions, and the last of which refers to the sharing of experiences and results.
The most noticeable results of improved openness and transparency were:
All but three of the institutions (82%, 14 out of 17) have a publicly accessible statement on the institution’s website, which explains its involvement with animal research. The three institutions that do not have a statement are working hard to provide one on their respective website.
Three quarters of the institutions (13/17) produced internal communications to staff and students, including newsletters, other publications and talks and presentations about the use of animals in research.
Around two thirds of the signatories (11/17) participated in activities organised by EARA or BCLAS and/or arranged Open Days (41%, 7/17).
Among other good communication practices reported were, institutions that have scientists, acting as spokespersons, ready to answer questions on animal research both internally and for the media and the public, while others provide media training for staff who wish to engage with the media on animal research.
Some good examples of openness were:
A general article, including a section on the animal training models, Orsi Academy (also an EARA member).
Organisation of "Open Days" where people can visit some facilities and can ask questions to the attending researchers, ILVO.
The report also highlighted where there could be room for improvement in communication from the signatories.
Less than a third of signatories provide images of the animals used in their research on their website, while just two institutions have recorded video footage of research animals, procedures or the animal facilities on their website.
One aspect highlighted by the signatories is a greater need for meetings in person and online with other signatories to exchange experiences, expertise, and good practices.
EARA executive director, Kirk Leech said:
“This report shows that by working together, biomedical institutions in Belgium can improve the way they explain why they use animals in research and its importance, but also assist each other to become more open and transparent.”
Speaking on behalf of the agreement, Piet Dierckx, President of the Belgian Council for Laboratory Animal Science (BCLAS) said:
“Overall, the results show that institutions are taking steps towards a commitment to creating opportunities for the public to access information on the use of animals in research, but we should strive for a higher level of transparency.”
For further information, please contact the TA co-ordinator, Elisabeth Herrero, firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
List of signatories to the Agreement:
Instituut voor Landbouw-, Visserij- en Voedingsonderzoek
Instituut voor Natuur- en Bosonderzoek
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
UCB Biopharma SRL
Union Chimique Belge
Université catholique de Louvain
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Université de Liège
Université de Mons
Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
The Transparency Agreement comprises four Commitments:
Commitment 1: We will be clear about when, how, and why we use animals in research.
Commitment 2: We will enhance our communications with the media and the public about our research using animals.
Commitment 3: We will be proactive in providing opportunities for the public to find out about research using animals.
Commitment 4: We will report on progress annually and share our experiences.