In April 2013, Ipsos was commissioned by Understanding Animal Research (UAR), on behalf of the Medical Research Council and the British Pharmacological Society, to conduct a public dialogue. The dialogue was co-funded by Sciencewise, the UK’s national centre for public dialogue in policy making involving science and technology issues. The aim was to understand the expectations of the general public with regard to transparency and openness in animal research.
Public dialogue revealed that the general public has very limited knowledge about animal research. A key finding was that if the public are to believe that the sector is genuinely committed to openness, there are several key principles the sector must adhere to.
- Clear messaging from the sector as to why openness is important.
- The public want the sector to demonstrate its commitment to openness by creating greater scrutiny of itself.
- After the dialogue had revealed the number of nuanced arguments which exist about the harms and benefits of animal research, participants felt that the public need to be educated about these nuances in order to be able to weigh up the harm and benefits of animal research.
The findings will feed into the development of a Concordat developed by a group of organisations involved in the funding, supporting and undertaking of animal research. This Concordat sets out the aims of the sector for greater openness and transparency surrounding animal research.
Technical note:The dialogue encompassed members of the general public (54 in total) within a mixture of age, gender and ethnicity who were broadly representative of each area, who were reconvened at two events each. A deliberative method was considered the optimal approach to allow participants to explore perceived benefits and drawback of openness and transparency in animal research. It is particularly useful when participants are unfamiliar with a topic, in this case the detail of who does animal research and on what animals. As a result, participants were exposed to a range of different perspectives from animal protection and welfare groups and the research community and suggestions on how the sector could be more open and transparent.
The Digital Harms Bill: Few doubt the need, many doubt the delivery
It has been recently announced that the Digital Harms Bill (that has been inching closer to its third reading in the House of Commons for months), has been put on hold. For the Government, this bill has been trumpeted as a 'milestone in the fight for a new digital age'.