A study of the websites of biomedical research bodies in Belgium, assessing how they discuss research using animals, just published by the European Animal Research Association (EARA), has found good improvements in their openness.
In the EARA Study of EU-based websites 2020, which has been presented to the EU Commission a total of 51 institutional websites in Belgium were assessed, both public and private bodies, such as universities and pharmaceutical companies, and the main findings were that:
More than two thirds of the institutions assessed (71%) have a recognisable statement acknowledging the use of animals, or a commitment to the welfare of research animals.
The vast majority of Belgian institutions now present information (86%) on the species of animal used, and the type of research they are used, in on their websites and feature (75%) case studies about research using animals.
However, only half the institutions (53%) used imagery or video of animals used at their research facilities.
The results show a big improvement on the previous assessment in 2018, when for instance just 56% of institutions had a recognisable statement about their use of animals – one of most important requirements.
A total of 1,065 institutional websites within the EU* were assessed by EARA. In comparison to Belgium (71%), the percentage of institutions that displayed a statement in other countries was – France 42%, Germany 51%, Italy 43%, Spain 81% and the UK 89%.
Currently, efforts to improve openness in Belgium are co-ordinated through the Transparency Agreement on Animal Research in Belgium, which is overseen by the Belgian Council for Animal Research (BCLAS), with the collaboration of EARA, and has 18 institutions as signatories, which are all committed to speaking more openly about their research.
In addition, there are currently Transparency Agreements in Portugal, Spain and the UK. In every assessment category, institutions with a Transparency Agreement showed greater openness and transparency on animal research than those institutions not in a Transparency Agreement. See EARA Study for appendix tables.
EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “The evidence is clear that the biomedical sector in Belgium is making much better progress on openness thanks to its commitment to a transparency agreement.
“We would urge all institutions that conduct biomedical research in Belgium to sign up to the agreement and improve their communication on animal research.”
Most of the medicines we use have at some point involved research using animals, for instance, animals are essential in research on Covid-19 to understand the virus.
EARA has produced an interactive map with a breakdown of the results in each category for each EU member state. The map also colour codes each country based on the percentage of institutions with a statement on animal research on their website.
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.
For further information contact EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, firstname.lastname@example.org on +44 (0)7970 132801
*This report also includes website assessments for UK institutions, this is to provide consistency with the previous EARA website study in 2018.
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 close to 100 member organisations, including private and public research bodies, universities, regional and national biomedical associations and suppliers, in 20 European countries.
EARA’s vision is to enhance the understanding and recognition of research involving animals across Europe, allowing for a more constructive dialogue with all stakeholders and a more efficient climate for research in Europe.
All data was collected between 7 January, 2020 and 19 June, 2020, by EARA. A total of 1,065 websites were assessed.
Inspired by the UK Concordat on Openness on Animal Research, transparency agreements (TAs) on animal research exist in Belgium, Portugal, Spain, and in total include 298 institutions from both the private and public biomedical community.
TAs contain commitments calling on institutions to speak with clarity on their use of animals for research and provide adequate information for both the public and the media. In every assessment category, institutions with a Transparency Agreement showed greater openness and transparency on animal research than those institutions not in a Transparency Agreement
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.