In 2018, myself (Jane Alfred, Director of Catalyst Editorial) and Nikki Osborne (Director of Responsible Research in Practice) conducted a survey of the research community to explore researchers’ awareness and understanding of preclinical animal research reporting. We were keen to look into the provision of training in this area as well, given that the inadequate and incomplete reporting of preclinical animal research has been linked to a failure to reproduce the findings of many preclinical animal studies (see for example, Kilkenny et al, 2010 and Avey et al, 2016). As we discussed in our previous blog post about the findings of this survey, this lack of reproducibility has far reaching implications for preclinical research and for improving our ability to understand, diagnose and treat human disease.

Since our survey this excellent article, entitled “Fixing the flaws in animal research” has been published and is worth a read should you wish to refresh your understanding of the issues our workshop is seeking to address. UKRIO has also published its research integrity primer on research involving animals, which contains a whole section on initiatives, tools and resources intended to support researchers in their efforts to improve the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research at every stage of the research process.  In addition, the UK reproducibility network has been created to investigate the factors that contribute to robust research, to promote training activities, and to disseminate best practice across disciplines, ranging from the arts and humanities to the physical sciences, with a particular focus on the biomedical sciences. A revised version of the ARRIVE guidelines that is currently undergoing piloting has also been shared, along with an elaboration and explanation document to support the implementation of the guidelines.

All of these recent publications and initiatives will no doubt provide additional support to animal researchers, and particularly to the 17% of our survey’s respondents who told us that they were unaware of issues concerning the quality of animal research reporting.  One of the most effective ways that myself and Nikki can help to improve the reporting of animal research is by providing researchers with training in this area. Indeed, our survey identified that only 38% of respondents have received training on how to report animal research data and on how to write research articles about animal data. Surprisingly, 11% of responders told us that they in fact have received no training on the areas we queried them on in the questionnaire.

Image credit: “mind the gap” by rosipaw licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 cc

These low numbers don’t reflect a lack of interest in being trained but a potential lack of training provision. Indeed, 77% of our survey respondents stated that they would like their organisation to provide them with training on animal research reporting and 74% told us that such training was relevant to their role.

In response to this training gap, we have now developed and successfully piloted a one-day Animal Research Reporting workshop for researchers and facility staff. This workshop aims to address training gaps highlighted by our 2018 survey, namely: improving the quality of animal research reporting at a research facility; better understanding of how to plan research in accordance with animal research reporting requirements; improving the reproducibility of research performed and reported by a research facility; and better understanding of the issues relating to animal research reporting. We discuss UK research council and charitable funders’ expectations regarding the responsible use of animals in bioscience research, as well as a host of available tools and resources, including the PREPARE checklist; the revised ARRIVE guidelines; the EQUATOR network; and animal research protocol registries, among others.

Our combined experience within the animal research and publishing communities makes us uniquely placed to offer this one-day training workshop. Plus, we are passionate about making a difference and our workshop feedback suggests that we do: “Really useful course that will influence how I work and write.”….”Excellent speakers.”….”The whole workshop was very informative and inspiring.”….”I thought the balance was spot on between presentations and participation.”

Get in touch to find out more about how we can work with you to strengthen your own and your colleagues’ animal research reporting skills.

Authors: Jane Alfred, Nikki Osborne