Leading research organisations, such as the UK’s Wellcome Trust (2020), recognise there is a need to create a more care-full and supportive working environment in the UK research sector.
Talking about the history of animal research can be tricky: the subject remains divisive, and using images poses further challenges. Scientific photographs of procedures can be very upsetting; antivivisection materials, often designed to confront their readers, might prove even more difficult. Yet images are an important source of historical evidence, and have played key roles in communicating animal research to diverse audiences, and occasionally in seeding controversy.
In part 1 of this blog series, we introduced the idea of a ‘spectrum of visibility’ in animal research, with some animals – such as those whose lives are affected by research, but not research subjects – found towards the less visible end of the spectrum.
A lot of guidance has been written about how to actively involve patients and the public in clinical research, and evidence is growing about the value of this. But there’s very little that is specifically aimed at researchers who work mainly in a laboratory, with very little or no contact with people affected by the condition they are studying.
On the 3rd December, 2020, Keble College’s Middle Common Room hosted a book launch for Ethical Debates in Orangutan Conservation, authored by Ally Palmer, a Keble Research Associate and postdoctoral researcher with the Animal Research Nexus.
Rich Gorman’s secondment to the RSPCA explored the social relations shaping the use of horseshoe crab blood within pharmaceutical endotoxin testing. This involved 13 stakeholder interviews, and has resulted in a stakeholder report alongside a peer-reviewed journal publication. Rich has also presented the research at industry conferences and academic seminars.
This year the Oxford AnNex team, supported by Keble College and ably assisted by the wonderfully organized Hibba Mazhary, was delighted to host the autumn meeting of the British Animal Studies Network. BASN is a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary forum for thinking about human-animal relationships and the role, place, perception, and representation of animals.
In my PhD work on societal views towards animal research, I’ve found that the area of cosmetics is often held up as an unambiguous example of the ethical limits of using animals in science, with cosmetic products and procedures providing an easy marker of where animal research is unnecessary and unjustifiable. Indeed, the use of animals for ‘cosmetic purposes’ is banned at both national and EU level (Directive 2010).
As part of a Wellcome Trust Secondment Fellowship with the RSPCA's Research Animals Department Dr Rich Gorman has spent the first half of 2020 exploring what a social science perspective might add to understanding the debates surrounding the biomedical use of horseshoe crabs. Read on to find out a little more about the results of this exciting research...