The aim of this project was to develop and pilot a new training session to help those working in the animal research sector to more fully and reflexively recognise, participate in and promote a culture of care in their working environment. The project uses fictionalised prompts (storytelling) as a training resource to encourage participants to share their own stories of working in animal research and through this process build connections and a shared culture of care across different communities within the animal research facility.
We conducted five pilots of this training exercise, with 8–10 participants in each one, including two sessions as part of an animal research project license holder training module, one session with university staff, one at pharmaceutical company, and a final pilot with a mixture of participants from various Contract Research Organisations (CROs) and pharmaceutical companies.
Feedback from the pilot workshops indicated that the exercise was very successful in emphasising the importance of open communication and the need to appreciate other perspectives and respect other roles within animal research. Participants commented that this exercise had given them new insights into the culture of care and had value added in terms of facilitating more in-depth and open discussion. Almost everyone who participated had not had, as far as they were aware, any previous training of this kind on the culture of care, although some mentioned care forums and leadership courses that had some similarities to this exercise. The experience encouraged participants to reflect on who had responsibility for generating a good culture of communication, and the importance of respecting different viewpoints in an animal research facility. In particular, more experienced participants highlighted the need to take a lead in and empower others to promote a culture of care. Others emphasised the need to support, listen to and care for colleagues. Participants really valued the ‘open and interactive communication’ the session created and found the approach ‘fun and engaging’.
Constructive feedback from participants included suggestions to include a wider variety of scenarios in diverse settings (such as CROs). It is also important to reflect on how to ensure that this exercise effects long-term change. Although respondents commented that the exercise did work successfully online, some of the theatrical and role-playing elements were lost in a virtual setting (such as switching seats and using props). Next steps for the project include disseminating results from the pilots to various stakeholders and applying for further funding to develop and expand the scripts, facilitate in-person pilots (when Covid-19-restrictions ease) and to publish the training materials.
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