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EARA study of EU-based websites 2024 - results in Germany

Updated: May 14



A study by the European Animal Research Association (EARA), to assess how openly German biomedical research bodies discuss research using animals on their websites, shows there are signs of growing improvements.

The EARA Study of EU-based websites 2024 published today, analysed a total of 908 websites across the EU in 2023, and the report has now been presented to the EU Commission. In Germany, 166 institutional websites were assessed, including both public and private bodies such as universities, research centres and pharmaceutical companies. The main findings were that:


  • In the most important category, around half of all German biomedical institutions (50%) have a recognisable statement on their website explaining the use of animals in research in language that is clearly understandable to the public. This is also above the overall EU average for website statements (45%).

  • In other categories assessed, German institutions have shown improvement in displaying extensive background information (52% - EU average 41%) on the use of animals in research, including frequently asked questions (FAQs) and useful links, as well as images of research animals and facilities (49% - EU average 37%). These are both improvements compared to the previous 2020 study, even though the criteria in these categories have become stricter.

  • In common with many other EU countries, just a third of German websites had content on statistical information about animal use at individual institutions (30%). The prominence of website content about animal research (46%) also needs to be addressed.


However, an analysis of the biomedical institutions in the German Transparency Agreement on Animal Research - launched in 2021 and now with 106 signatory bodies - that have all pledged to be more open about their use of animals, shows much better results. Around two thirds of the websites of signatory institutions now feature a clear statement (68%), case study examples of animal use in research (61%), extensive website content (63%), and have also made their content prominent (62%).

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “Thanks to the Transparency Agreement we are now starting to see real progress towards greater openness in Germany. We would urge many other biomedical institutions to join the agreement and commit to an improved dialogue with the public.”

Transparency Agreements have been a successful launchpad, across Europe, for greater efforts to provide useful information for the public about research at individual institutions, and have led to a greater commitment by institutions to be more open. This success means there is now a clear gap in website content between the six EU countries with a TA (Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain) and all the other EU countries without a TA - signatory institutions are now three times more likely to have a recognisable statement on animal research (79% compared to 26%) across the EU.


Since the previous EARA study in 2020, stricter criteria have been introduced into the assessment categories, so it is not possible to make comparisons. When EARA first began assessing websites in 2017, the presence of high-quality institutional website content on animal research was scarce. Since then, significant improvements have made it possible to raise the benchmark.


EARA is now confident that if an institution can reach the required standard in all categories, they will be providing the public with the comprehensive information necessary to develop informed opinions on the use of animals in biomedical research. 

For further information contact EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, btolliday@eara.eu on +44 (0)7970 132801


Notes to editors

 

About EARA

The European Animal Research Association (EARA) is an organisation that communicates and advocates on biomedical research using animals and provides accurate, evidence-based information. It has more than 170 member organisations, including private and public research bodies, universities, regional and national biomedical associations and suppliers, in 24 European countries (19 in the EU) and in four other continents.


EARA’s vision is that animal research is understood by society as still a critical part of the scientific process, leading to an informed and beneficial climate for innovation and progress for the benefit of human and animal and environmental health.


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.

 

The benefits of animal research

Most of the medicines we use have at some point involved research using animals. Animals are essential in research on Covid-19 for understanding the virus, and for assessing potential drugs and vaccines. They will help millions with conditions such as cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord damage and parasitic infections like malaria. There are three main reasons why animals are used in research:

  • To advance scientific understanding

  • To develop solutions to medical problems

  • To test medicines and vaccines in order to protect the safety of people, animals and the environment.


Animals are used when there is a need to find out what happens in the whole living body, which is far more complex than the sum of its parts. It is very difficult, and in most cases simply not yet possible, to develop non-animal methods to replace the use of living animals.


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