Advancing the implementation of the 3Rs
The Implement-3R project aims to provide a clear picture of the barriers to 3Rs implementation in Switzerland and to recommend potential ways of reducing them.
The 3Rs – replacement (replacing animal testing), reduction (reducing the number of animals in an experiment), and refinement (limiting suffering) – are now widely accepted both inside the scientific community and beyond. However, it appears that implementation of the 3Rs is not consistent. The responsible stakeholders – researchers, members of animal ethics committees, animal welfare officers, etc. – have considerable scope for interpretation, depending on the R in question: refinement, for example, is relatively well regulated and usually well implemented, but replacement is often problematic. While approval processes are theoretically defined by law, scientific approval of proposed replacement methods is not always.
Various studies show that although researchers support the idea of the 3Rs in principle, they sometimes doubt the benefits of replacement methods in reality. An Australian study showed that animal welfare officers fear that the options offered by the 3Rs are underused in practice. A Canadian study has pointed out the problem of obtaining information: where do researchers get information about the 3Rs? According to the study, they tend to obtain it from fellow researchers rather than the relevant 3Rs databases. In Switzerland, there are additional hurdles to implementation in the form of different cantonal regulations that lead to different approval decisions.
"Relatively little is known about researchers' attitudes, needs and motivations with regard to 3R methods," says Bernice Elger, a professor at the University of Basel, summarising the problem. The Implement-3R project therefore aims to provide a clear picture of the barriers to 3Rs implementation in Switzerland and to recommend potential ways of reducing them.
As a first step, the team will analyse the current situation and take a look at existing regulations and ethics guidelines. They will then conduct a total of 80 interviews with key national stakeholders. These will be followed by focus groups and workshops to discuss the results. "Our project will encourage the dialogue between stakeholders that is urgently needed and in so doing drive implementation forward," says Elger.
Implementing 3Rs in Switzerland: an interdisciplinary in-depth exploration of barriers and facilitators [Implement-3R]