A study by the European Animal Research Association (EARA), of websites of biomedical research bodies in Portugal, assessing how they discuss research using animals, has found that the sector is still some way from an acceptable level of openness and transparency in animal research.
EARA assessed a total of 50 institutional websites in Portugal, 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:
Just over a quarter (26%) of the institutions conducting animal research carry a recognisable statement on their websites explaining the use of animals in research/animal welfare.
However, around two thirds of websites assessed (62%) meet the criterion for providing ‘more information’, for instance by including the kind of animals used.
Just one in five (20%) 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 Portugal are co-ordinated through a transparency agreement, which was launched last year by the Portuguese Society of Sciences in Laboratory Animals (SPCAL), in collaboration with EARA, and is signed by 16 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 Portugal, 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%, Spain 84% and UK 95%.
EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “The biomedical sector in Portugal has made progress through its 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.
For further information contact EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, firstname.lastname@example.org on +44 (0)20 3675 1245 or +44 (0)7970 132801
 A further 100 websites from non-EU countries were assessed.