The information platform “Understanding Animal Research” of the Alliance of Science Organizations in Germany and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) are launching their “Transparency Agreement for Transparent Information and Open Communication about Animal Research in Germany” on July 1st, 2021. In the context of the initiative, research facilities from the field of life sciences undertake to transparently inform about animal experiments, to get actively involved in dialogue about animal research, as well as to exchange experiences and publicize activities.
Among the more than 50 initial signatories are universities, hospitals, non-university research institutions – like the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) – as well as corporations that conduct research, as well as scholarly societies and funding organizations. Planning provides for further organizations to join in the future. All signatories are listed on the website that has been set up for the initiative. Examples of successful communication about animal research and information for supporting the signatories in realizing their goals are also provided on the website. The initiative follows similar activities in other European countries such as Britain, France and Spain.
"Transparent communication has been important to us at the MDC for many years, so it was only natural that we joined the transparency initiative,” says Professor Thomas Sommer, interim Scientific Director of the MDC. “We are open about what we are doing, how we are doing it, and why we are doing it. Our aim is to initiate objective debate within society. For I am convinced that a wider understanding of scientific work and trust in biomedical research can only be achieved through social dialogue.”
Putting the highest possible priority on transparency
“Animal experiments are a topic that is subject to controversial public debate. This is why trans-parent communication about scientific and ethical aspects of animal research is of special im-portance in explaining to the general public that sadly not all animal experiments can be avoided in life science research to date. At the same time it must be emphasized that animal experiments are only carried out following comprehensive ethical consideration of the balance between scientific knowledge acquisition and potential suffering caused to the animals,” says DFG President Professor Katja Becker.
Professor Brigitte Vollmar, Chair of the DFG Senate Commission on Animal Protection and Experimentation, is very pleased about the large number of initial signatories: “The Transparency Agreement is already supported by more than 50 research institutions! We are confident that many other organizations will fulfil their responsibility to provide transparent information about animal research, and will join the initiative. Support from the entire scientific community is vital to attach as much importance to the idea of transparency as possible.”
Professor Stefan Treue, head of the “Understanding Animal Research” steering group, thinks of the transparency initiative as another important step towards a more proactive approach to ani-mal research: “The Alliance of Science Organizations in Germany launched the ‘Understanding Animal Research’ platform in 2016 to signal that the public interest in animal experiments is taken seriously, and to provide a foundation that enables everybody to deal with the issue based on solid and comprehensive information. The initiative launched today builds on this. We want to support the signatories in advancing their transparent and open discussion about animals in research.”
“Be Open about Animal Research Day”
Upon its launch on 1 July, the Transparency Agreement joins the ranks of various communication campaigns around the world. The initiative is launched on the “Be Open about Animal Research Day”, an event organized by the European Animal Research Association (EARA), sharing examples of openness and transparency in animal research. The accompanying social media campaign can be found via the hashtag #BOARD21. The MDC has been a member of the EARA since 2013 and is therefore already committed to transparent communication about animal research.
The “Transparency Agreement Initiative” was started by the DFG’s Permanent Senate Commission on Animal Protection and Experimentation and the Understanding Animal Research platform that is coordinated by the Alliance of Science Organizations in Germany. The Senate Commission is an interdisciplinary committee of experts that is dedicated to the latest scientific developments and the complex ethical and legal framework of animal welfare and animal research. It provides advice to the committees of the DFG, as well as policy-makers and authorities. Understanding Animal Research is dedicating to providing the latest fact-based information about animal experiments in publicly funded research and helps to communicate the importance of animal research for society.
In line with the current state of research, animal experiments are an important component of the spectrum of experimental methods in biomedical research. Animal research is essential to gain fundamental knowledge and to allow for medically relevant development. While recent methodological research allows for animal experiments to be replaced or reduced in scope by using alternative methods in certain experimental approaches, it is currently not yet foreseeable that animal experiments can be replaced entirely. Such experiments will also be necessary in the future, to gain knowledge and to develop new therapeutic approaches and methods.
- (only in German)