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Italy openness event

In EARA’s first face-to-face event since 2019, members of the Italian biomedical research community came together in Milan, in September, to discuss the need to push forward the agenda on openness about animal research.

More than 20 in person and 80 online attendees joined Improving Openness in Animal Research in Italy, a hybrid event supported by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN).

A woman holding a microphone and a script stands in front of a projector to address the audience
Professor Monica di Luca addresses the audience

Conversations were dominated by a push towards producing a Transparency Agreement for Italy, where national institutions can come together to commit to greater levels of openness about animal research. This would be similar to agreements already in place in Belgium, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and the UK.

“We have been working on putting this in motion for some time, now we just need a nucleus of committed institutions who can move forward with this without fear,”

Giuliano Grignaschi, of Italian advocacy organization Research4Life (R4L).

EARA Executive Director Kirk Leech echoed this, using examples of how the violent tactics of animal activist groups are now a thing of the past and fear of this should not be a barrier to greater openness.

“Now six countries across Europe have adopted transparency agreements, we can see that they work and do not lead to an increase in violent tactics,” he said.

The meeting was held at EARA member, the University of Milan, in collaboration with R4L, and featured presentations on ethics, communication, and practical examples of how researchers and communication staff can start the conversation about animal research.

A woman stands in front of a projector displaying a PowerPoint slide with green writing saying "4Rs"
Professor Annalisa Bucchi describes the importance of taking small steps towards communicating

Professor Annalisa Bucchi, of the University of Milan, told the audience that small steps were needed to get going, and to “start by sharing your research and the reasons for it with family and friends”.

She also shared ways in which animal welfare bodies can play a role in more open communication, by promoting information about the ways in which they work to the 3Rs.

Attendees heard about the ethical and moral reasons for transparency from Dr Simone Pollo, associate professor of moral philosophy at the Sapienza University of Rome, while Dr Fabio Turone of Center for Ethics in Science and Journalism shared examples and tips on how to begin communicating about animal research.

The event also featured messages of support from Professor Monica Di Luca, who spoke on behalf of FENS, on the need for better communication in neuroscience, and Fabiola Bologna, a member of the Italian parliamentary group Courage Italy.

A man with a microphone stands in a lecture theatre addressing the audience
EARA Executive Director Kirk Leech encourages the audience to consider committing to a transparency agreement

A panel discussion then took place to end the event taking questions on how to start communicating research at the right level for the audience.

“It’s better to have more people being open than not enough people talking about animal research,” said Kirk Leech, encouraging the audience not let the fear of making mistakes prevent them from communicating.

“We need one voice; it may seem complicated but really there is nothing to stop you, you just need to go ahead and start.”

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