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Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthCAAT
 

Refinement Program

Kathrin Herrmann

Refinement on the Way Towards Replacement: CAAT's Evidence-based Refinement Program

Coordinator: Kathrin Herrmann (kherrma1@jhu.edu)

“Suppose, for a particular purpose, we cannot use replacing techniques. Suppose it is agreed that we shall be using every device of theory and practice to reduce to a minimum the number of animals we have to employ. It is at this point that refinement starts, and its object is simply to reduce to an absolute minimum the amount of distress imposed on those animals that are still used.”
—The Principles of Human Experimental Technique,
(Russell and Burch,1959, Chapter 7) [emphasis added] 

Russell and Burch introduced the principles of replacement, reduction, and refinement of animal experimentation in 1959 in their groundbreaking book, The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique (Russell and Burch, 1959)to eradicate inhumanity towards other animals used in science. Their highest goal was to avoid the use of animals wherever possible, and—in the case that animals were still deemed indispensable—to enhance significantly their treatment, while also improving the quality of research and testing. Thus, CAAT’s Refinement Program includes not only environmental (housing) and experimental refinements in its agenda, but also a strong focus on refinement of planning, conducting, and reporting of animal-based studies, as these are essential to ensuring the quality of research and testing. A new priority of CAAT’s Refinement Program is to help fund systematic reviews of frequently used and/or severe animal models to either refine them (if proven valid) or, when they are not representative for the intended purpose (e.g., to model a specific human malady), to demonstrate their weaknesses in an unbiased manner.

Through our next generation Science-Based Refinement Awards, we provide funding for non-invasive research that helps to improve both animal welfare and scientific rigor. These awards focus on research projects to enhance the housing, handling, and/or experimental situations for laboratory animals or reduce animal use (by, for example, identifying areas of research and testing where animals are not suitable). The grants are intended for those who work hands-on with animals, such as animal welfare scientists, veterinarians, and animal care technicians, as well as for researchers who conduct systematic reviews and meta-analyses in all the above-mentioned areas of refinement. These awards have an impact well beyond the recipients themselves; past awardees have been able to publish their results in international journals, and have received grants from other organizations to continue their work, thereby effecting long-lasting impacts on animal lives. 

Science-based Refinement Awards (Full information and Call for Proposals)

In addition to the awards, the Refinement Program is engaging in the following activities: 

  • Teaching at Johns Hopkins University and for FELASA courses in Europe (e-learning), as well as speaking at international conferences
  • Organizing international symposia, workshops, and seminars on pressing refinement issues
  • Co-organizing an annual symposium on social housing and other refinement in the US. Presentations from our 2018 Symposium on Social Housing of Laboratory Animals can be viewed here
  • Researching ways to improve scientific rigor and reproducibility

Upcoming Events

7th Annual 3Rs Symposium: Practical Solutions and Success Stories
June 4-5, 2020
USDA National Agricultural Library
Beltsville, Maryland

The 7th Annual 3Rs symposium, co-hosted by the USDA Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC), NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), the Johns Hopkins Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT), will be held June 4-5, 2020 in Beltsville, Maryland. The goal of this year’s symposium is to bring together experts in replacement, reduction, and refinement of animal experimentation to exchange information with scientists, IACUC members, veterinarians, and animal care technicians about practical solutions and recent success stories to reduce the use of animals in research and improve their welfare.

The format includes 1.5 days of lectures and panel discussions with interactive breakout sessions in the afternoon on day two. These lectures give participants a strong foundation in the relevant research underlying breakthroughs in the 3Rs, while the breakout sessions allow participants to receive feedback specific to their own facilities from experts and colleagues. A half-day tour of labs and research centers at the Agricultural Research Service is planned for June 3, 2019 as an optional pre-symposium event.