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Highlights of the first Open Week on animal research in Portugal


Portugal has hosted its first Open Week on Animal Research (6-10 May), an initiative aimed at promoting transparency and dialogue about biomedical research involving animals.

 

Organised by the European Animal Research Association (EARA) and the signatory institutions of the Portuguese Transparency Agreement, the week offered a variety of events and activities providing insight into the role of animals in scientific research.

 

The Open Week successfully engaged the public and staff from the institutions who interacted extensively with researchers and animal technicians, asking pertinent questions and creating engaging discussions. All the activities received strikingly positive feedback from the participants and researchers involved. Some of the highlights of the week included:


Patient Discover Day in Portugal
  • The week started in Lisbon with the first Patient Discovery Day in Portugal, organised by diabetes patient group APDP and NOVA Medical School, together with EARA. Participants had the opportunity to learn about the work of research groups focused on diabetes and tour the animal facility, where they observed surgeries, blood collection, and behavioural experiments. Read more about the event.



 






  • Also during the week, the Coimbra Institute for Biomedical and Clinical Research (iCBR) organised a visit to its rodent animal facility for a class of 12th grade biology students, focusing on the conditions and requirements for scientific research with animals. Feedback from the high school students included:

 

“I enjoyed the activity; it was very interesting and changed my view about the use of animals in the laboratory.”

 

“Interesting activity, I liked seeing the animals, the environment they are in, and how they are cared for.”

Coimbra Institute for Biomedical and Clinical Research (iCBR)
  • Similarly, researchers from the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology (CNC-UC) and the Institute for Nuclear Sciences Applied to Health (ICNAS) both at the University of Coimbra, visited primary and high schools to explain how animal research is conducted. Their aim was to demystify misconceptions and highlight the importance of this research for biomedical advancements.

  • EARA member the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon (FCUL), held a lecture for high school students on ensuring animal welfare, while the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro (UTAD) conducted a series of webinars on Animal Research Ethics for students and other external participants. UTAD also hosted the 2nd meeting on The Use of Animals for Research, addressing the balance between scientific needs and animal welfare.

  • Several organisations opened their animal facilities to the public and external visitors. EARA member the Life and Health Sciences Research Institute (ICVS) at the University of Minho, opened its animal facility to staff and families, providing an inside look at their research environment and their animal care practices.

Life and Health Sciences Research Institute (ICVS) at the University of Minho
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC)
  • EARA member the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC) in Lisbon, offered visits to the rodent and zebrafish facilities for IGC staff who do not conduct animal research, such as administrative workers and other students. Similarly, EARA member the Champalimaud Foundation opened its animal facility for clinical staff visits, allowing attendees to see their research in action. Feedback from some of the participants included:

 

“It was a very positive experience. It changed my perspective on the conditions of animal experimentation, demystifying myths that we sometimes hear in civil society.”

 

“A fantastic experience that exceeded my expectations, especially in terms of the rigor, care, and love shown when taking care of the animals.”


  • Meanwhile, biotechnology company Sea4Us, offered a workshop on animal research for their collaborators who do not conduct animal research. Additionally, EARA member i3S University of Porto, provided facility tours, showcasing their research spaces and practices.

 

Throughout the week, articles, news, and content were shared on social media to further educate the public about the significance and ethical considerations of animal research.

 

This initiative in Portugal mirrors similar efforts seen in the Netherlands, where institutions participating in the Transparency Agreement on Animal Research have offered insights into their biomedical research during their annual open week.


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