Experiments on and involving animals are an established and widespread feature of research. In an attempt to address the dichotomy between the benefits of the knowledge that animal experimentation provides and the suffering that it causes, the scientists William M.S. Russell and Rex L. Burch set out the “Three Rs” in 1959. The objective of the 3R (replace, reduce and refine) is to replace animal testing by alternative experimental approaches, to reduce the number of animals used to the essential minimum, and to avoid exposing animals to unnecessary and disproportionate physical or other stresses by refining experimental approaches and providing more natural living conditions.

The National Research Programme «Advancing 3R – Animals, research and society» (NRP 79) wants to investigate how to advance the 3R - replace, reduce and refine - effectively, by identifying and addressing the potential, the challenges and limitations of the 3R approach.

What are the objectives of NRP 79?

The NRP 79 sets out two overarching goals on the basis of the 3Rs.

From a bioscience technology perspective, it will devise and develop methods and instruments that will reduce the number of animals used in experiments in academic and private research in Switzerland (including animals used for environmental safety and toxicology testing) or that contribute to substantially reducing the stress, suffering and pain experienced by animals in experiments and in husbandries.

From a humanities and social science perspective, NRP 79 aims to examine in an innovative way the ethical, legal, social, historical, cultural and economic aspects of animal testing and the use of animals in science. The data and new findings obtained will provide opponents and proponents of animal testing with a shared basis for discussion that will drive forward societal discourse.

Why is this research programme important?

Although a number of initiatives aimed at intensifying implementation of the 3Rs are already in progress, NRP 79 sets out to point the way for systematic, comprehensive research of future options and the necessary, realistic advances, limitations and barriers of implementation, taking into account the change in relations between humans and animals over recent years. NRP 79 promises to provide a ‘reality check’ and important steps towards the thorough and effective implementation of the 3R, as well as a transparent basis for assessing where this approach may lead and where its opportunities and limitations lie.

How can this be achieved?

Three modules and cross-module questions arise from the programme’s objectives:

How long will the programme last and how much will it cost?

The research phase of the programme will be launched in May 2022 and will last 5 years. The programme disposes of a total budget of 20 million Swiss francs

How will the NRP 79 broadcast the results?

Throughout the programme, results and recommendations from the research projects will be broadcasted by means of workshops and events, in the social media and continuously, on this website.