Harm-benefit analysis for animal experiments: how decision-making can be improved
Jens Gaab's research project therefore sets out to investigate and improve the consistency of decisions on animal experiments in Switzerland.
In Switzerland and many other countries, research projects involving animal experiments have to be approved by an animal ethics committee. This committee considers whether the human interest outweighs the animal interest – in other words, does the desired gain in knowledge justify the expected stress to the animals? Other important questions also have to be resolved, such as whether the research goals can be achieved using animal free methods or whether less harmful methods are available. This is not an easy task. Although guidelines exist to help assess research projects, there are no concrete case studies that provide guidance for researchers or committee members. The acceptability of projects is usually determined on a case-by-case basis.
International studies show that there is considerable variation in animal ethics committees’ approaches to evaluating projects. "Anecdotal evidence suggests that this is also the case in Switzerland," says Jens Gaab, a professor at the University of Basel. Such inconsistencies in approach can weaken the confidence of researchers and the public in the decisions made by committees.
Jens Gaab's research project therefore sets out to investigate and improve the consistency of decisions on animal experiments in Switzerland. The project will start by reviewing the existing literature. This will lead to a second step, involving interviews with various groups of people and discussions of hypothetical case studies. For example, how would patients evaluate a certain research project and what arguments would they use to do so? How would students, young scientists or members of animal ethics committees assess the same project and why? The data obtained will be collated and analysed. One of the aims is to publish a collection of case studies that can be used to help evaluate projects more consistently in the future.
3R-sTrategies and Harm-benefIt analysis: uNnderstanding decision-maKing and improving consistency and accountability in animal experiment evaluations in Switzerland [THINK-3R]