At a time of increasing political scrutiny in Germany, EARA and the University Hospital Frankfurt Goethe University, a recent EARA member, hosted an event last week, to highlight the need for openness in animal research communication.
The event, also involving EARA members Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and the Ernst Strüngmann Institute (ESI), began with EARA executive director Kirk Leech describing the ‘growing political pressure to speed up the end of animal research’ in the EU, stressing the scientific falsehoods of the current popular narrative by animal groups that all animal research is old-fashioned and can already be fully replaced by alternative methods.
Monique Havermans, a researcher at the University Hospital Freiburg, and co-ordinator of the Dutch Transparency Agreement on animal research, highlighted the benefits of openness initiatives such as the EARA Patient Discovery project, which was successfully launched in the Netherlands, this autumn, stating that ‘we want researchers and patients to interact more and have patients share their experiences’, to understand the mutual benefits for both.
Markus Bernards, of the Goethe University communications department, delved into the complexities of debating animal research in public forums. He pointed out the often unbalanced nature of these discussions, where ‘scientists argue with evidence, while activists argue with morals’.
And Peter Jedlicka, of Goethe University and Justus Liebig University Giessen, explained about his work in computer-based (in silico) modelling of biological systems, while emphasising that both animal (in vivo) and cell-based (in vitro) data was still necessary ‘to generate predictions that improve our models’.
The panel discussion that followed explored several subjects such as non-animal methods, and the patients’ role in advocating for animal research. The audience called out the need for a top-down approach regarding communicating animal research, for younger researchers to be able to talk about their experimental work in animals for advancing science with confidence.
EARA is holding another openness event in Germany, at Charité - University Medicine Berlin, on 29 January, 12:00 - 16:00 CET, in collaboration with the Max Delbruck Center and the Free University Berlin. Register here.