FEB 04, 2016 06:00 AM PST

Steps on the route to optimising experimental design, including teaching and conducting systematic reviews

  • Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester
      Dr Fry was Chief Inspector of the UK Animal Scientific Procedures Inspectorate until his retirement in 2008, and since then has had an honorary position at the University of Manchester. Before joining the Inspectorate he was a senior medical academic, but his teaching included elementary statistics for medical students, with the challenge to make the subject interesting and accessible to those with a variety of backgrounds. As an inspector his work involved assessing proposals for 5 year programmes of animal experiments in many different fields and inspecting the experiments and animals on site, as well as advising government on biomedical issues and promoting the application of the 3Rs (replacement, reduction and refinement) in animal-based research and testing. His specialist interest was experimental design. He was on the ECVAM working group on reduction, and is on the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments (FRAME) Reduction Steering Committee, and the UK National Centre for the 3Rs Experimental Design Working Group. Since retiring his publications include a number on experimental design and he has run or helped run workshops on experimental design in the UK, in several European countries, in Taiwan, China and South Korea, and in Canada and the USA. He has been a tutor on all the experimental design schools run by FRAME and on an MSc module on experimental design at Manchester University. He has contributed to every World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences since 1999, and ran a satellite workshop on experimental design for the 2011 Congress.
    • Scientific Researcher & Coordinator, SYRCLE, Central Animal Laboratory, Radboud University Medical Center
        Rob studied biology and philosophy and has a PhD in the ethics of animal experimentation. As a postdoctoral researcher, he studied the application of the 3Rs to tissue engineering research. He has been a member of two Animal Ethics Committees. His research has always focused on the intersection between ethics and methodological aspects of animal experiments. He currently works as a scientific researcher and coordinator at SYRCLE (the SYstematic Review Centre for Laboratory animal Experimentation) in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He is mainly responsible for organizing hands-on training in systematic reviews of animal studies and for coaching researchers who are conducting their own systematic reviews.


      A number of elements come into the mix when trying to optimise experimental design. Among these are having clear objectives, setting up valid comparisons, knowing how to avoid bias during the conduct of the experiment, and ability to select and use appropriately the best design from those which could be used – and that includes considering effects on the animals and the severity of the procedures.  Beforehand it is important to have done suitable background reading not only related to the scientific question but also of the impact on the animals of the methods that might be used, and the likely severity of the work.  Systematic review of the literature, identifying, selecting, appraising, and synthesizing all available research evidence relevant to that question, should be an important part of this background work.   These reviews can help improve the methodological quality of animal experiments, make the choice of an animal model and the translation of animal data to the clinic more evidence-based, and help the researcher implement the 3Rs.

      The panel discussion will start with short introductions from the panellists covering these points and then proceed as a general discussion on what is needed to optimise experimental design, how those teaching experimental design can make researchers aware of the important considerations, and how systematic reviews can be used as a tool to optimise experimental design.

      Learning Objectives:
      During the session a participant will: 

      • Be aware of how fundamental principles of good experimental design contribute to optimisation 
      • Appreciate how the results of a Systematic Review can be used to optimize the design of an animal study 
      • Have opportunity to discuss how best to teach experimental design for laboratory animal work and how to make use of the results of systematic reviews.

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