The European Animal Research Association (EARA) has submitted a guidance document on Non-Technical Summaries (NTS) to the EU Commission on how NTS can be made more understandable for the ordinary reader.
The details were presented by Javier Guillén, (pictured below) a member of the EARA working group that produced the guidance document, at the 14th FELASA Congress, held in Prague, Czech Republic, last week.
Javier told the Congress that as part of its strategy to improve openness and transparency on the use of animals in research in Europe, EARA has been working closely with the EU to help improve the information provided to the general public.
It is understood that the Commission will produce additional guidance on NTS for Member States using some of the EARA guidance document findings.
Every research project application, that intends to use animals, is required to include a publicly available NTS which includes a simple explanation of the project’s objectives, predicted harms, benefits and number and types of animals used. It must also demonstrate compliance with the 3Rs (replacement, reduction and refinement).
EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “We are very pleased to hear that the Commission has found the EARA working group’s observations useful.
“NTS are a small part of the overall need to improve openness and transparency on animal research, but they could be a valuable resource, in particular, for the media and other influencers who communicate with the public directly, in explaining issues such as animal welfare and the benefits that biomedical research can bring for society.”
NTS are widely seen as a positive development in improving transparency on animal research to the public. However, it is widely agreed that there are a number of problems in the compilation, accuracy, standardisation and accessibility of NTS.
In November 2017, the EU Commission published its Review of Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. The Commission reported that there had been some progress on transparency, but suggested that further improvements were needed. In particular further work is needed on the publication of statistical information on animal use and on non-technical project summaries (NTS).
EARA identified clear opportunities to improve NTS for the general public and set up its working group in 2018. The working group brought together representatives from the user community, with a range of experts from backgrounds in animal welfare, communications and private and public biomedical research, including membership of institutional ethics committees and welfare organisations.
As an example of its guidance, the EARA working group suggested that, in the Adverse Effects section of the NTS, rather than saying what will be done to animals (e.g. ‘rats will be injected’), researchers should try to describe in everyday language what the animal’s experience is likely to be.
For example, ‘Rats will likely experience some discomfort, mild pain and bruising to the skin from being injected on four occasions’.
The members were Javier Guillén, (AAALAC International, chair), Michael Addelman (University of Manchester), Peter Janssen (FENS_CARE), Serban Morosan (GIRCOR) , Barney Reed (RSPCA) , Kirsty Reid (EFPIA) , Bob Tolliday (EARA) and Hanna-Marja Voipio (FELASA).
** The guidance is based on the current proposed template by the European Commission. Since a new version of this template is expected before the end of 2019, the Working Group may consider a future update of the guidance to make it fit better with the new template, although the opinion of the Working Group is that the main concepts of the presented guidance will be still valid.