Over 70 life science organisations signed up to the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in May 2014, committing to greater transparency on this topic which had traditionally been shrouded in secrecy and security. The Concordat commits signatories to reporting annually on their progress. The result of this, the first annual report on the Concordat was published on Tuesday (29 September), and highlights some great progress as well as some remaining challenges for the sector.
Concordat signatories, including the ABPI and many of our members who conduct animal research in the UK, are committed to providing honest information to their staff and the public on how and why they use or support the use of animals in research, with the aim of facilitating informed debate. The annual report celebrates the great leaps forward made towards this aim in the last year.
For example, many organisations now have areas of their website dedicated to animal research, others have hosted open days and lab visits, some have opened up ethical review sessions to interested staff, and some have even had documentaries filmed in their animal labs. Much of this would have been unthinkable for many organisations two years ago.
Challenges to openness remain though, and the report makes recommendations for moving forwards. One key area is ensuring that the harms and limitations, as well as the benefits of animal research, are discussed publically. Another is interactions with the media. This can be particularly challenging for industry, where there may be greater considerations of IP protection and partner confidentiality.
One of our member companies has shared their thoughts on their progress on openness in the last year:
“At Astra Zeneca, we believe we go a long way in fulfilling some of the commitments set out by the Concordat. Our ‘Global Standard on Animal Care and Welfare’ encapsulates both the opportunities and some of the challenges connected with openness.
“We are raising awareness of the value and role of animal research to our local communities at both the Cambridge Science Festival and, more recently, at a Family Fun Day in Alderley Park, which had over 3,000 visitors. We are also hosting a large number of animal facility tours and talking at local schools and colleges about animal research.
“We are encouraged by the response received at our awareness events, showing that there is a desire from people to understand the facts and be able to make their own minds up. With animal welfare, good science, and ethical business conduct being so intricately related, the openness agenda positively supports all three priorities: to reduce, refine or replace the use of animals in research.”
At ABPI, we will be holding an event: "Bringing animal research into the open" on Friday 20 November, bringing members together to discuss these challenges, share ideas, and how we can move forward as an industry to greater transparency and openness in the coming years.