People and strategies behind 3Rs science: compassion fatigue, culture of care and systematic reviews

The papers behind the pod:

1. Professional Quality of Life in Research Involving Laboratory Animals. Animals 11(9), 2639 (2021)

2. Improving culture of care through maximising learning from observations and events: Addressing what is at fault. Laboratory Animals (2021).

3. Epidemiology and reporting characteristics of preclinical systematic reviews. PLOS Biology (2021).


It’s the 3rd Thursday of October, and you’re listening to 3 Minute 3Rs, your monthly recap of efforts to replace, reduce, and refine the use of animals in research. This month, we’re focusing on the people and strategies behind the science.

First up, new research on compassion fatigue and its impact on those working with laboratory animals.

Most professionals work in animal research because they want to help both animals and people. Their jobs can bring them satisfaction, but can also result in workplace stress. After all, their work can be challenging and is subject to social stigma.

Recently, a team investigated laboratory animal personnel’s professional quality of life in Spain. They found that less positive professional quality of life was associated with several factors: (1) receiving less social support, (2) being a PhD student, and (3) working as a researcher versus as animal-facility personnel. Their work could assist the design of interventions to help those working with laboratory animals.

Want to learn more? Read the full paper open access in Animals.

Next, let’s talk about culture of care: what does it mean for animal facilities, and how can it become established practice? Sally Robinson and colleagues at AstraZeneca draw on their experience of making this happen in a new review paper.

In an animal research setting, an establishment with a positive culture of care is committed to improving animal welfare, scientific quality, transparency and staff wellbeing. However, if things go wrong this culture of care can be derailed if lessons are not learned.

The authors describe a system for logging events and observations to enable better tracking, analysis and oversight of both negative and positive occurrences. Using the philosophy of human and organisational performance, the system enabled them to move away from focusing on individual errors and towards addressing any issues in a more constructive way – for example, by recognizing that human error is inevitable, but the consequences of an error depend on how an organization is set up.

This shift in focus, along with positive reinforcement of good practice through awards and wider dissemination, helped create an environment where staff felt more able to report issues. The paper includes examples of how the system was used and the factors that led to success.

Inspired to strengthen your facility’s culture of care? Check out the paper in Laboratory Animals.

Finally, let’s shift over to systematic reviews and how researchers can make sure they’re doing them right.

If you’re looking to understand what research has already been published to answer a hypothesis, systematic reviews can be really helpful. Comprehensively identifying previous studies, their key findings and any reasons for differences between results can also have 3Rs benefits by helping to inform model choice and optimise sample size.

However, if key details are not reported the transparency and...

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