Guidance on the use of animals in research is issued by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), which is funded by UKRI’s Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
Responsibility in the use of animals in bioscience research
This guidance sets out the expectations of the funding bodies for the responsible use of animals in research. It applies to the use of any vertebrate animals and cephalopods (live animals or animal products). Implementation of the principles in this guidance is a condition of receiving funds from the funding bodies, regardless of where in the world the research is conducted. The guidance is therefore useful for applicants and reviewers of research proposals.
Experimental design assistant
The Experimental Design Assistant (EDA) is a free, secure online tool from the NC3Rs to help researchers design robust in vivo experiments, likely to yield reliable and reproducible results. The system uses computer-based logical reasoning to provide bespoke feedback on study designs, including dedicated support for randomisation, blinding and sample size calculation. The funding bodies recommend use of the EDA when preparing research proposals.
Sharing and archiving of genetically altered mice
Archiving genetically altered mouse strains reduces animal wastage and maintains genetic integrity, maximising data reproducibility. Cryopreserved resources are also often the best means of sharing genetically altered strains, providing further opportunities for reduction in animal use and minimising the need for strain duplication. This guidance provides an overview of current best practice, highlighting the reduction and refinement opportunities from archiving and sharing.
NC3Rs resource hub: Genetically altered mice
Information to help with the implementation of approaches to reduce and refine the use of genetically altered (GA) mice. This includes advice on good practice in colony management, and on dealing with challenging scenarios, when returning to GA mouse work following COVID-19 lockdown.
NC3Rs resource hub: Non-human primate welfare
Information and resources to improve the welfare of non-human primates used in research, including guidelines, websites and events.
Non-human primate accommodation, care and use
These guidelines apply to any research involving the use of non-human primates, conducted in the UK or overseas. Implementation of the principles in the guidelines is a condition of receiving funds for non-human primate research. Compliance with the guidelines is assessed as part of NC3Rs’ involvement in the peer review processes of the funding bodies.
NC3Rs peer review and advice service
Research proposals involving the use of non-human primates, cats, dogs and equines (and for some funding bodies, those involving pigs) are referred to the NC3Rs for 3Rs review. This helps to ensure that the animal welfare standards are genuinely high and exceed the legal minima, that overseas work is conducted to standards equivalent to those in the UK, and that experimental design is robust. NC3Rs’ advice is used during decisions on funding and when drafting the terms and conditions of grant awards. Further information about the NC3Rs review process, including tips for applicants, is given on the NC3Rs website.
Additional questions on the use of animals overseas
As opportunities for UK-based researchers to collaborate with researchers overseas have increased, so too has the importance of ensuring that animal welfare standards are appropriate and equivalent to those in the UK. Many funding bodies require applicants to complete additional questions on the use of rodents, rabbits, Xenopus and livestock species overseas (checklists) and to upload them with their application. A signed statement from both the UK and overseas principal investigators is also required in some cases.
Choosing contractors for animal research
A PDF presentation to advise applicants of the welfare standards expected by the funding bodies when contracting out animal studies. Applicants intending to place studies at contractors overseas are especially advised to view the presentation before choosing the contractor and submitting their application.
Standardised questions on the use of pigs
Additional questions for completion by BBSRC applicants proposing to use pigs.
NC3Rs resource hub: Wildlife research
Guidelines on handling animals in field studies and captive studies, including capture, handling and restraint, attaching tracking devices and collecting samples.
These reporting guidelines are a checklist of information to include in publications describing animal research. They apply to any study involving live animals, including invertebrates, in any area of the biosciences, to ensure that studies are reported in enough detail to add to the knowledge base. This transparency enables readers and reviewers to scrutinise the research adequately, evaluate its methodological rigour, and reproduce the methods or findings. The funding bodies stipulate that publications resulting from funded research should follow the ARRIVE guidelines.
Find out about the use of animals in research by UKRI’s councils: