Is there a need for an ethical reassessment of 3Rs?

© Marco Finsterwald

What does the public think about the 3Rs? Is there a need for an ethical re-evaluation? These are the questions that the EXPLOR3R project will be investigating.

  • Project description

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    Since they were introduced in 1959, the 3Rs have become the dominant ethical principle in animal research. Researchers are expected to replace, reduce and refine their use of animals in research.

    However, the 3Rs have been criticised on the grounds that they consolidate the status of animal experimentation in principle. Although the 3Rs aim to reduce the use of animals in research, they are nevertheless based on the assumption that it is ethical to use animals in experiments if the presumed benefits to humans outweigh the harm to animals. In addition, there are different interpretations of what the 3Rs actually mean. Not all researchers, for example, understand the concept of "replacing" in the same way, and some study protocols mention the 3Rs principle, but do not give a clear explanation of how it is to be implemented.

    This raises several ethical questions: what do researchers think about the 3Rs? What does the public think about them? Is there a need for an ethical re-evaluation? These are the questions that the EXPLOR3R project will be investigating. "Our project is about exploring awareness of the 3Rs among different stakeholder groups, such as researchers," says Kirsten Persson of the University of Basel. "We will be using an experimental ethics approach." This will involve using fictional scenarios to challenge study participants to evaluate their moral beliefs and analyse whether they are driven by prejudices, for example. Are their answers a " gut response" or the result of considered, evidence-based beliefs?

    The research group will use the results to draw conclusions about whether a reassessment is needed and suggest possible modifications. At the same time, they will develop a tool for communicating the 3Rs to the public.

  • Original title

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    EXPLOR3R: Exploring 3R with experimental ethics