Policy on use of animals in research

EPSRC’s policy on the use of animals in research is aligned with that of the other research councils. Wherever possible, researchers must adopt procedures and techniques that avoid the use of animals. Where this is not possible, the research should be designed to conform to recognised best practice.

In May 2014, EPSRC was one of 72 organisations that signed the Concordat on Openness in Animal Research in the UK. By 2022, 126 organisations had signed the concordat.

The EPSRC endorses guidance developed by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) about the use of animals in research. We recommend that applicants and reviewers keep themselves aware of developments in best practice by familiarising themselves with publications and other resources accessible through the NC3Rs website.

Here are some key resources.

Responsibility in the use of animals in bioscience research
This guidance document from NC3Rs provides general guidance for researchers and associated staff using animals or animal research products in bioscience research. It sets out EPSRC’s expectations in relation to the use of animals in research, and as such is also useful to those assessing applications for research funding. It is a condition for receiving EPSRC funding that the principles and guidance are strictly followed.

Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments (ARRIVE) guidelines
Researchers are encouraged to report animal-based studies in accordance with ARRIVE guidelines, which are intended to improve standards of reporting and ensure that the data from animal experiments can be fully evaluated and utilised.

Primate accommodation, care and use
Guidelines on the accommodation, care and use of non-human primates produced by the NC3Rs. Implementation of the principles in this guidance is a condition of receiving funds from EPSRC.

Animal testing and research: guidance for the regulated community
Experiments using animals funded by the EPSRC must comply with the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA), amended 2012 and any further embodiments, in:

  • using the simplest possible, or least sentient, species of animal appropriate
  • ensuring that distress and pain are avoided wherever possible
  • employing an appropriate design and using the minimum number of animals consistent with ensuring that scientific objectives will be met.

This UK.GOV document gives guidance and regulatory advice on how to apply for licences issued under ASPA, and how compliance is assessed.

NC3Rs advice on opportunities and techniques for implementing ASPA includes the experimental design assistant, a free online tool to help optimise experimental design and ensure that the number of animals used is consistent with the scientific objectives.

It is the responsibility of EPSRC funding applicants to obtain the appropriate Home Office licences, and any research proposals must be approved by an animal welfare and ethical review body (AWERB).

You do not need to have a Home Office licence before submitting your application, but, if you are awarded a grant, you must have the necessary licences in place before starting any animal experimentation.

Collaborative international research

If your proposal includes animal experiments as part of a collaborative programme outside the UK, you must ensure that the experiments are conducted in a way that conforms to the legal, ethical and normal practices in that country as well as those in the UK (including animal welfare requirements). Where standards are different, the more rigorous should be followed. This requirement applies whether or not the animals are to be purchased with funds requested within the proposal itself.

Application process and peer review of proposals

Applicants whose proposals include the use of animals must fully justify the choice of species and numbers of all animals required, including power calculations where appropriate. This requirement applies whether or not the animals are to be purchased with funds sought through the proposal itself.

Applicants should be aware that the animal use aspects of proposals may be subject to specific review during the assessment process. NC3Rs is involved in reviewing all applications received by EPSRC which propose to use non-human primates, cats, dogs or equines, providing advice on replacement, refinement and reduction as well as animal welfare.

Read Use of animals: guidance for EPSRC applicants and peer reviewers.

Last updated: 31 March 2022

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