Research using animals has made, and continues to make, a vital contribution both to the basic understanding of the nature of living processes and systems, and, importantly, to the diagnosis and treatment of a range of major 21st century health problems including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, skeletal and neuromuscular disorders, infectious diseases and mental illness. While new methods have enabled scientists and medical researchers to reduce experimentation involving animals, some work must continue for further fundamental advances to be made.
The Open University uses animals only in research programmes of the highest quality and where there are no alternatives. All such work is carried out under licences issued by the Home Office after weighing the potential benefits against the effects on the animals concerned. Research students and staff receive training in the legal and ethical aspects of animal experimentation, as well as instruction on husbandry and animal welfare. The University is committed to the principles of Reduction, Refinement and Replacement (the 3Rs); on each project it ensures that the number of animals used is minimised and that procedures, care routines and husbandry are refined to maximise animal welfare. In addition, the University is committed to the development of technologies such as computer modelling that reduce animal use. Where the use of animals remains essential, the Open University is committed to a culture of care and respect for animal welfare.
All OU research involving animals is reviewed by the OU Animal Welfare Ethical Review Body (AWERB), which advises the OU Establishment Licence holder - a senior member of the University. The Open University’s Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB), originally the Animal Ethics Advisory Group (AEAG), was one of the first such committees established in the UK and was set up at the request of the original Department of Biological Sciences. It provides ethical advice on standards of animal care, welfare and accommodation and ensures that those working with animals are aware of their responsibilities and receive appropriate training. Veterinary and animal welfare staff are actively involved in the ethics review of research, welfare and care of animals and provide ongoing advice and support to researchers.
The Open University is a signatory to the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research which has been initiated by Understanding Animal Research (UAR) to promote transparency in animal research - UAR Concordat on Openness website.
The OU supports and endorses the ARRIVE (Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments) guidelines, developed as part of an NC3Rs initiative to improve the design, analysis and reporting of animal research.
The OU is also aware of the Responsibility in the use of animals in bioscience research: Expectations of the major research council and charitable funding bodies co-ordinated by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and the Wellcome Trust, to clarify their expectations with regard to responsibility in the use of animals in bioscience research.
More information about research using animals is available on the Advice and Resources webpage.
As part of ongoing efforts to reduce waste and increase the reproducibility of animal research and testing, a group of experts has produced a set of PREPARE guidelines for planning animal experiments. The guidelines are complementary to reporting guidelines such as ARRIVE (see below) and cover three broad areas which determine the quality of the preparation for animal studies. The guidelines can be used when planning any type of research.