Scientific research has produced substantial social benefits. It has also posed troubling ethical questions within the scope of human and animal experimentation. Difficult questions have been raised about both the effectiveness of animal testing and research in predicting human outcomes and the adequacy of existing ethical and welfare guidelines. Replacements for animal tests, which share the advantages of being human biology-based, include computer modeling, in vitro techniques, tissue engineering, epidemiological studies, genetic methods, and microdosing.
The key model for protection of animals in research, often referred to as the “3 Rs,” was first described in the 1959 book The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique by W.M.S. Russell and R.L. Burch. The “3 Rs” ask researchers to work to reduce the number of animals used to the minimum necessary, refine or limit the pain and distress to which animals will be exposed, and replace the use of animals with nonanimal alternatives when possible or use a species less capable of pain and distress. While the “3 Rs” capture important notions, scientific advancements over the past five decades require a re-evaluation of the scientific and ethical mandates regarding the use of animals in research. Scientific discoveries pertinent to the cognitive and emotional capabilities of animals and an increased understanding of the benefits, limits, and risks of animal research are of tremendous interest to the medical and scientific community, and are often contentious, but are rarely studied together in an organized forum.
At the end of the conference participants should be able to:
- understand how effective preclinical testing methods, including animal experiments and nonanimal methods, are for predicting safety and efficacy of pharmaceutical interventions;
- identify the genetic, biological, and physiological similarities and differences pertinent to the extrapolation of scientific findings across species;
- describe the basic nature of animal cognitive and affective capabilities, as revealed in ethology, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and related fields, and resulting ethical and scientific imperatives;
- list general ethical and scientific advancements in fields such as toxicology; and
- recognize existing and developing alternatives to animal research, including computer or mathematical modeling, in vitro techniques, tissue engineering, and others.