Funders and the peer review process have an important role in assessing the validity, necessity and justification of research grant proposals in relation to the funding body’s research strategy and ethical framework. When research involving animals is proposed, funders have a duty to assess as part of the peer review the need to use animals, the appropriateness of the species and model chosen, and robustness of the planned experimental design and statistical framework.
The Research Councils and the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) have reviewed and aligned their guidance to clarify for researchers what information they are expected to provide to allow robust evaluation of applications for funding involving animal research.
The Animal Research section on the Joint Electronic Submission System (Je-S) has been altered to reflect these changes.
All proposals using animals should explain not only the need to use animals and the ethical implications of the planned experiments, but also clearly describe how the planned experimental design is appropriate to give robust results. In explaining the latter, applicants are expected to detail how the number of animals to be used was decided, plans to minimise experimental bias, and provide information on statistical aspects of the study including statistical power and appropriate statistical analysis.
Detailed information about what should be included is provided in the respective Research Councils’ guidance for grant applicants.
A number of important related initiatives have aimed to improve the reproducibility of animal experiments and the application of the 3Rs (replacement, reduction and refinement), as well as raising the sometimes inadequate standard of reporting of animal experiments in the scientific literature.
The guidance document ’Responsibility in the use of animals in bioscience research’, coordinated by the NC3Rs and the Research Councils, along with Defra, the Wellcome Trust and other members of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), sets out the funders’ expectations, principles and procedures as well as the legal controls and the responsibilities of relevant parties. This includes a requirement to follow the NC3Rs’ ARRIVE guidelines, which lay out criteria that should be met in reporting animal studies in order that their results and conclusions can be properly evaluated and utilised.
All applicants for Research Council funding for research using animals should read both these documents before starting the application process.
Guidance for Applicants:
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