More than 50 German universities, research centres and companies today signed a transparency agreement on animal research, with a commitment to speaking more openly to the public about their use in biomedical studies.
Launched by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the advocacy group TVV (Tierversuche Verstehen) and supported by the Alliance of Science Organisations the 53 signatories have committed to providing transparent information on animal research, to engaging in a dialogue with the public and sharing experiences of communication among themselves.
Germany becomes the sixth country to sign an agreement matching similar initiatives, co-ordinated or supported by EARA, in Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain and the UK.
The launch of the agreement also coincides with Be Open about Animal Research Day (#BOARD21) the first-ever global day to celebrate openness in communication about animal research.
A website for the initiative lists all the signatories, and provides examples of successful communication on animal research and provides information to support the signatories in the implementation of the stated goals.
European Animal Research Association executive director, Kirk Leech, welcomed the agreement and said: “This is a significant development in the growing zeitgeist of the biomedical community across Europe to be more open and transparent about animal research.
“Animal studies have played a vital part in the fight against Covid-19 and greater transparency among German institutions will help demonstrate this further to the general public, as well as the efforts of the sector to minimise animal use and to develop trustworthy alternatives.”
DFG President Professor, Dr Katja Becker, said: "Animal experiments are a controversially discussed topic in society. Transparent communication on scientific and ethical aspects of animal research therefore has a special place in order to make it clear to the public that, unfortunately, not all animal experiments in life science research can currently be avoided – and at the same time to point out that every animal experiment only takes place after careful ethical consideration of the scientific gain in knowledge against the potential suffering of the animals."
In order to increase scientific knowledge, improve human and veterinary medical therapies as well as better protect humans, animals and the environment, high quality research, both basic and applied, including testing for vaccines, requires a scientific approach that includes the use of animal models. Scientists are required to always use alternative non-animal models if these are available, but a complete replacement of animal research is not yet foreseeable.
The charter signatories have therefore agreed to four commitments that will ensure the public receives comprehensive, clear and accurate information on the essential importance of animal models in research, as well as the strict regulatory framework that is followed. The four commitments are:
1. Provide the public with broad, target-group specific, comprehensible and easily accessible information on animal research.
2. Proactively engage in a dialogue with society and in public reporting about animal research.
3. Consider communication as a joint task and support each other in this endeavour.
4. Make our activities to promote transparent information and open communication about animal experiments in research easily available and publish up-to-date information via the communication channels of the institution/organisation.
The chairwoman of the DFG Senate Commission on Animal Research, Professor Dr. Brigitte Vollmar, said: "We are confident that many other institutions will live up to their responsibility for transparent information on animal research and will join the initiative. It is important to have the support of the entire scientific community in order to give the idea of transparency the greatest possible weight."
Professor Dr. Stefan Treue, chairman of the animal testing steering group, said: "In 2016, the Alliance of Science Organisations launched TVV in order to take the social interest in animal experiments seriously and to create the basis for solid and comprehensive information. With the initiative launched today, we are building on this. We want to support the signatories in further advancing their transparent and open discussion on research with animals."
For further information
Media contact: DFG Press and Public Relations, Tel. +49 228 885-2109, email@example.com
Contact at the Secretariat of the DFG Senate Commission for Animal Research: Dr. Valeska Stephan, University Medical Center Rostock, Tel. +49 381 494-2565, firstname.lastname@example.org
Technical contact person at the DFG Head Office: Dr. Andreas Görlich, Life Sciences Group 2: Microbiology, Immunology, Neurosciences, Tel. +49 228 885-2566, email@example.com
About DFG and TVV
The DFG's Permanent Senate Commission on Animal Experiments is an interdisciplinary panel of experts that deals with current scientific developments as well as the complex ethical and legal framework conditions of animal welfare and animal research.
TVV provides up-to-date and fact-based information about animal experiments in publicly funded research and contributes to conveying the social significance of animal research.