Policy on use of animals in research

EPSRC policy on the use of animals in research is aligned with that of the other Research Councils. Wherever possible, researchers must adopt procedures and techniques that avoid the use of animals. Where this is not possible, the research should be designed to conform to recognised best practice.

The EPSRC endorses guidance developed by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) concerning the use of animals in research. EPSRC recommends that applicants and reviewers should keep themselves aware of developments in best practice by familiarising themselves with publications and other resources accessible through the NC3Rs website. Key resources are referenced below:

Responsibility in the use of animals in bioscience research

This document provides general guidance to researchers and associated staff using animals or animal research products in bioscience research. It sets out the expectations of the EPSRC for the use of such animals in research and is therefore also useful to those assessing applications for research funding. Implementation of the principles in this guidance is a condition of receiving funds from EPSRC.

Animal research: reporting of in vivo experiments (ARRIVE)

Researchers are encouraged to report animal-based studies in accordance with the ARRIVE guidelines. These guidelines are intended to improve standards of reporting and ensure that the data from animal experiments can be fully evaluated and utilised.

Primate accommodation, care and use

Guidelines on the accommodation, care and use of non-human primates, produced by the NC3Rs. Implementation of the principles in this guidance is a condition of receiving funds from EPSRC.

In May 2014, EPSRC was one of 72 organisations who signed the Concordat on Openness in Animal Research in the UK (PDF 2.0MB).

Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA)

Experiments using animals funded by the EPSRC must comply with the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA), amended 2012 and any further embodiments, in:

  • using the simplest possible, or least sentient, species of animal appropriate
  • ensuring that distress and pain are avoided wherever possible
  • employing an appropriate design and using the minimum number of animals consistent with ensuring that scientific objectives will be met

Advice on opportunities and techniques for implementing these principles can be found on the NC3Rs website. This includes the Experimental Design Assistant (EDA), a free online tool from the NC3Rs to help optimise experimental design and ensure that the number of animals used is consistent with the scientific objectives.

It is the responsibility of all applicants to ensure that the appropriate Home Office licences are obtained. This will include the requirement that the research proposals are approved by the local animal welfare and ethical review body (AWERB).

Home Office licences (or amendments to existing licences) do not have to be obtained before the application is submitted to the EPSRC, but if a grant is awarded, researchers must have the necessary licences in place before any animal experimentation begins.

Collaborative international research

If applicants are proposing to undertake any animal experiments as part of collaborative programmes outside the UK, these experiments must be conducted in a way that conforms to the legal, ethical and normal practices in that country, as well as conforming to the standards (including animal welfare) required in the UK. Where standards are different, the more rigorous guidelines will apply. Please note that this requirement applies whether or not the animals are to be purchased with funds requested within the proposal itself.

Application Process and Peer Review of Proposals

For more detailed guidance for applicants and peer reviewers please read the guidance document available in the resources section below.

Applicants whose proposals include the use of animals must fully justify the choice of species and numbers of all animals required, including power calculations where appropriate. Please note that this requirement applies whether or not the animals are to be purchased with funds requested within the proposal itself.

Applicants should be aware that the animal use aspects of proposals may be subject to specific review during the assessment process. The NC3Rs will be involved in the review of any applications received by EPSRC proposing to use non-human primates, cats, dogs or equines, providing advice on the replacement, refinement and reduction (3Rs) and animal welfare.

Resources