The fourth annual Culture of Care and 3Rs meeting was hosted at The Pirbright Institute on 16 October 2019, chaired by Pirbright’s Director of Capability, Dr Michael Johnson. The meeting provides a discussion space for those who work within animal research, allowing attendees to discover new tools designed to assist in conducting responsible experiments and to share ideas and good practice about the foremost issues in their field.
Previous years have focused on the importance of designing research in accordance with the 3Rs; Reducing the number of animals, Refining procedures and Replacing the need for animal research where possible. This year the spotlight included not only animal welfare, but the wellbeing and mental health of animal technicians.
The seminar organiser Lucy Norris, an Animal Services Administrator at The Pirbright Institute, commented: “With 50 external attendees, this years’ Culture of Care and 3Rs meeting was the largest to date. Our animal technicians do an incredible job caring for the animals whilst on study, but mental health should not be seen as a taboo and highlighting this with events like this, really is essential to ensuring that our technicians, and the wider community, know that they are not alone.”
Lizzie Lockett, the CEO of Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and Director of the Mind Matters Initiative, kicked off the talks with a discussion on the factors involved in managing and improving mental health within professions working with animals. She also gave an overview of the Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant, created to fund research in mental health and wellbeing within veterinary careers.
Lizzie Lockett said: “Those working in the research field with roles supporting animal welfare need to ensure that the same diligence and care they apply to this valuable work is also focused on themselves. This is vital to ensure they stay well enough, both mentally and physically, to undertake this important but very emotionally-demanding work. There are no quick fixes or easy solutions but starting the conversation with events like this is extremely valuable.”
Following on from this Dr Keith Davies, previously of Cardiff University, spoke about the emotional dissonance faced by those involved in animal research. He offered insightful comments on the effects animal research can have on the mental health of those involved and explored the various ways in which this can manifest personally, socially and in the workplace.
Dr Helen Bintley, a Lecturer in Clinical Skills Education at Queen Mary University of London gave her perspective on maintaining mental wellbeing in stressful environments. Dr Bintley offered examples from the medical profession on coping and monitoring mechanisms. She commented on the importance of the seminar: ‘The event at The Pirbright Institute was a fantastic opportunity to share experiences across disciplines and I want to thank the Institute for the chance to do this.’
After a break for lunch, Dr Simon Bate, Statistics Leader from GSK, delivered a talk entitled ‘Statistics for non-statisticians’. He touched on the impact of statistics in animal research and how statistical analysis can be considered at every step in experimental design to ensure animal welfare is maximised whilst retaining efficient, reliable and accurate results.
He was followed by Professor Clare Stanford, a Professor of Translational Neuropharmacology at University College London who gave an outline of the Experimental Design Assistant (EDA), an online tool designed to assist researchers in designing in vivo experiments. The final talk of the day was given by Pirbright’s Dr Beatriz Sanz-Bernardo who detailed the advancements made in applying the 3Rs to lumpy skin disease research. The continuing improvement includes refining biopsy procedures to minimise animal suffering and replacing laboratory experiments with simulations modelling host-vector interactions.
The event finished with a question and answer session which allowed delegates to further discuss the talks and points made throughout the day. Dr Michael Johnson summarised to close the event: “It’s been an excellent day and I think we had an excellent external response to this event, with a very positive interest in animal welfare from those attending”.
For more information on The Pirbright Institute’s commitment to animal welfare, visit our Animals in Research pages.