The University of Reading has been named as a leader in openness by animal research charity Understanding Animal Research.

The award sees the University of Reading become the 15th institution in the UK to be recognised for modelling best practice about communicating animal research. The recognition follows two previous awards for work to highlight research involving llamas such as Fifi who is helping to develop Covid-19 antibody treatments.

Professor Robert Van de Noort, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading said:

“I am delighted that the University of Reading has become a Leader in Openness in animal research, recognising our commitment to not only doing highly important research using animals but also leading in best practice about how we talk about it. Our research is making a valuable difference in developing new treatments for dementia, heart disease and epilepsy and finding better ways to sustainably feed our world, and animals used in this research play an important role.”

Understanding Animal Research who gave the award praised Reading’s approach to promoting animal research stories, highlighting the use of traditional and social media to convey its animal research projects is a leading example of openness.

The university’s herd of llamas, which are used to produce antibodies for drug delivery research, have featured in social media campaigns to highlight the number of animals used in scientific research at Reading.

Bella Williams, Head of Engagement at Understanding Animal Research, said:

“The Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK is a voluntary code of practice that asks its 127 signatories to communicate openly about their use of animals in biomedical research. Since its launch, seven years ago today, we have seen a huge increase in the information about how, when and why animals are used in science that anyone can access through a web-search, attending an event or just through working at an organisation.

“The Concordat aims to remove the legacy of real and perceived secrecy around the use of animals in scientific research and create greater trust in the sector. Signatories are working with the media and public to explain how animal research has benefits for animals and humans, such as the development of new medicines like Covid-19 vaccines. They also show why animal research is vital to their organisation, and how those animals are cared for.

“Three years ago, we launched Leaders in Openness status to recognise signatories that consistently demonstrate best practice in their communications around animal research, leading the sector by example. Today I am delighted to announce that the University of Reading joins the list of Leaders in Openness. The university has shown tremendous leadership and innovation in communicating the essential animal research it carries out. In particular, the University of Reading’s handling of social media and willingness to engage in free debate around the validity of animal research makes this topic more accessible for their students, staff and the public.”

Animal research is heavily regulated in the UK, an experiment can only take place when a suitable animal-free method is not available, and it must be granted approval from the UK Home Office and a local ethical committee. All Concordat signatories are committed to the ‘3Rs’ of replacement, reduction and refinement. This means avoiding or replacing the use of animals where possible; minimising the number of animals used per experiment and optimising the experience of the animals to improve animal welfare.