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Illuminating and Addressing Animal Methods Bias

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Animal experiments are subject to high variability, do not reliably predict clinical outcomes, and are ethically problematic. Despite the availability of more reliable, effective, and ethical nonanimal experimental systems in many areas of biomedical research and testing, animal use remains the “gold standard” due to institutional inertia, financial interests, and other barriers. While systemic in nature, these barriers are carried out at an individual level, such as through biased manuscript peer reviews, often involving reviewers requesting that authors perform animal experiments to validate their findings.  

Animal methods bias is a newly defined type of publishing bias describing a preference for animal-based methods where they may not be necessary or where nonanimal-based methods may already be suitable, which not only has ethical, time, and cost implications, but also affects the translatability of findings to humans. It may also have career consequences, causing delays in publication or forcing authors to publish in lower impact journals, or by leading early-stage researchers to pursue animal methods because of the impression that they must do so in order to publish and progress their careers.  

Following an April 2022 workshop that gathered stakeholders from publishing, academia, industry, government, and non-governmental organizations to discuss animal methods bias in scientific publishing, a coalition was formed to develop strategies to address this phenomenon. The Coalition to Illuminate and Address Animal Methods Bias (COLAAB) is an international coalition of researchers and advocates from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Humane Society International, the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité, the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Transition Programme to Animal-free Innovations at Utrecht University, York St John University, and others.     

Mitigating Animal Methods Bias

Within the COLAAB, the Mitigation Working Group aims to (1) develop and implement tools and tactics to mitigate animal methods bias and (2) engage journals, funders, institutions, editors, authors, and early-career researchers about this issue. This group has developed the Author Guide for Addressing Animal Methods Bias in Publishing, which contains information that researchers may use during study design, during manuscript preparation and submission, and during peer review to avoid or address reviewers’ potential animal methods bias. 

The COLAAB is in the process of building a website to house the Author Guide. It will contain comprehensive, up-to-date resources for authors. Join our mailing list below for updates on the site launch!  

Building Evidence

The Evidence Working Group aims to (1) collect and analyze data and evidence about animal methods bias and (2) describe animal methods bias and its causes, impacts, and importance to the broader scientific community. This group conducted an initial survey to assess authors’ experiences and perceptions of animal methods bias during manuscript peer review establishing preliminary evidence of this bias. Currently, they are conducting a follow-up survey as well as an analysis of animal use in publications to further demonstrate evidence of animal methods bias and its practical impacts on biomedical research.

COLAAB Publications

Krebs CE and Herrmann K. Confronting the bias towards animal experimentation (animal methods bias). Frontiers in Drug Discovery. 2024 (4).

Kavanagh O and Krebs CE. Mitigating animal methods bias to reduce animal use and improve biomedical translation. Science Progress. 2024;107(2).

Krebs CE, Camp C, Constantino H, et al. Author Guide for Addressing Animal Methods Bias in Publishing. Advanced Science. 2023, 2303226.

Krebs C, Lam A, McCarthy J, Constantino H, Sullivan K. A survey to assess animal methods bias in scientific publishing. ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation. 2023.

Krebs C, Camp C, Constantino H, et al. Proceedings of a workshop to address animal methods bias in scientific publishing. ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation. 2022.

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Get More Involved

For inquiries or comments, to get more involved, or to tell us about your personal experience with animal methods bias, contact us at info [at] (info[at]animalmethodsbias[dot]org).

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