public. Nevalainen raised several questions for consideration. First, should the scientific community be proactive and establish core principles for the regulators? One example of core principles of animal welfare developed by scientists and referred to by government policy makers is the ILAR Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (NRC, 2010).
Next, how specific should core principles or regulations be? The EU animal care and housing regulations, for example, are species specific, but do not go to the level of stocks and strains. Strains differ in many ways, such as how they react to environmental enrichment items placed in the cage. Optimally, Nevalainen said, housing and care regulations or guidelines could be specific to the level of strains and stocks, but this may be unrealistic due to the vast number of different strains. In the EU directive, there is some division by type of research (e.g., basic, translational research, regulatory testing for quality, efficacy, and safety), but not by field.
Third, would regulations specific to neurosciences be helpful? Nevalainen noted that in 2003, ILAR issued Guidelines for the Care and Use of Mammals in Neuroscience and Behavioral Research (NRC, 2003).
Focusing on Refinement and Reduction
Nevalainen discussed a “2Rs” approach, seeking to maximize both refinement and reduction, but not replacement, to achieve less harm and better science. A 2Rs method could be scientifically validated, beneficial to the animals, and not detract from the scientific integrity. Even small changes to improve conditions for individual animals might have considerable impact overall, Nevalainen noted. For example, habituating animals to handling can reduce their anxiety and stress.
CORE PRINCIPLES FOR ANIMAL USE IN NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCH
During the discussion that followed the presentations, several panelists and participants observed that the core principles described above are generally applicable to all research areas and procedures involving animals. Specific recommendations or guidance on neuroscience procedures may be needed, but the core principles by which animal studies in neuroscience can be conducted might be the same as those for any discipline. Citing the GSK example discussed above, few participants noted that the basic principles of performance standards, professional judgment, and a harmonized approach or outcome is independent of the therapeutic area being investigated or the pathway being explored. It also was noted that with so many disciplines and research areas, it is unlikely that a directive or legislation could specifically address individual research areas (e.g., neuroscience).