2nd call for proposals: Four additional projects chosen

Second call for proposals in NRP 79 “Advancing 3R”: Four additional projects from the humanities and social sciences set to bolster the NRP.

Advancing the 3Rs in Switzerland and beyond will require not only biomedical and technical innovations, but also new approaches to the associated societal discourse. With this goal in mind, the NRP 79 Steering Committee launched a second call for proposals specifically for projects from the humanities and social sciences. At a meeting held at the end of January 2023, the Steering Committee chose four outstanding projects that it intends to support with a budget totalling 1.8 million Swiss francs.

Research project 1 – An ethic for transition

The 3Rs are generally regarded as the foundation for animal research governance. In September 2021, the European Parliament voted to draw up a plan to phase out animal testing in the long term. Switzerland is also increasingly looking beyond regulation and to a transition to research that does not involve animal testing. This raises important questions: What is the long-term goal of the 3Rs? Are the 3Rs an exit strategy that aims to achieve a vision of completely harm-free science? If so, is this strategy fair? This research project, led by Nico Müller from the University of Basel, sets out to find answers to these questions.

Research project 2 – Organoids and their status in Swiss law

Organoids – “mini organs” derived from stem cells – represent a promising alternative to animal testing. Going forward, they could well be used in future to test drug substances, for example, and NRP 79 is funding research projects associated with them. But what is the situation concerning the legal status of organoids? Where could potential legal obstacles stand in the way of their development and use? Are there any differences between the tissues used in organoids (e.g. heart, muscle, brain)? The project led by Alfred Früh, Professor of Private Law at the University of Basel, will supply answers to these questions.

Research project 3 – A political and ethical analysis of the data on animal testing

Research involving animals has been a subject of debate in Switzerland for decades, particularly in the context of referendums. The 3Rs are one of the main driving forces of Swiss animal welfare legislation. But how familiar are people in Switzerland with them? How has public discussion of animal testing developed in recent decades? What political and ethical arguments are used and how have these changed over time? Caroline Brall and Caroline Schlaufer from the University of Bern will be exploring these questions over the next few years in the course of this NRP project.

Research project 4 – Improving harm-benefit analyses

The decision to approve – or otherwise – animal testing is based on a harm-benefit analysis. However, such analyses are often difficult to conduct and present researchers and the authorities responsible for approval with major challenges. What counts as damage? How is pathocentric harm (e.g. pain and fear) weighted against non-pathocentric harm (e.g. instrumentalisation of the animal)? What methods can we use to compare the interests of humans and animals most effectively? These are some of the core issues that the team led by Matthias Eggel, an ethics researcher at the University of Basel, will be investigating.

These four additional projects bring the total number of projects in NRP 79 to 27. We welcome the new project teams to the programme and look forward to working with them.