About the curriculum for the use of research animals

The curriculum for the use of research animals is intended to support undergraduate and taught masters degree programmes in which students are expected to analyse literature and/or data that have been generated from studies involving animals that are subject to regulation (“research animals”), for example under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 - A(SP)A.

The statements cover the knowledge, skills and attitudes that should be acquired by students specifically with respect to the use of research animals. We have developed a set of core learning outcomes to support all students undertaking such degree programmes. It lists ideal learning outcomes and we appreciate that it may not be possible to apply it to all students at all institutions. We understand that different courses will have their own unique requirements and that the delivery of this curriculum will depend on the discipline. We have also developed a set of experiential learning outcomes intended to provide additional support for those who wish to go on to study research animals in their courses, placements, projects and careers. Our intention is not to be overly prescriptive, but we hope that the curricula will be a useful reference point in course design, delivery and review.

The curriculum assumes, but does not duplicate, the important generic skills and attributes provided by any scientific degree programme. Therefore, it should be read alongside relevant QAA benchmark statements, for example, Biomedical Sciences, Biosciences. Educators should use their own academic judgement, experience, resources, and knowledge of their students’ needs in interpreting the curriculum and embedding it into their programmes. We hope that the curriculum will help support consistency in the undergraduate educational experience, openness about the use of research animals and objective evaluation of the outputs of such research.

The curriculum has been produced by the British Pharmacological Society through review and consolidation of previous work on undergraduate learning outcomes for the use of research animals. Statements were developed using an iterative Delphi process that drew on the expertise of 34 stakeholders (core) and 29 stakeholders (experiential) with educational, research, welfare, industrial and regulatory experience. This work was a direct response to a recommendation made in an evaluation of the Integrative Pharmacology Fund (IPF). The IPF was a £4m investment from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline, which was used to leverage a total of £22m through partnership funding from the research councils and other public bodies. The evaluation recommended the development of learning objectives for the use of research animals.

The curriculum will support students to:

  • develop knowledge and understanding of the appropriate scientific use of research animals
  • develop knowledge and understanding of the ethical & welfare issues surrounding the use of research animals
  • analyse literature and/or data that has been generated from studies involving research animals
  • cultivate respectful attitudes to research animals
  • make informed career choices

Recommendations on practical exposure to use of research animals

In addition to defining core and experiential knowledge, skills and attitudes, we make recommendations to guide the provision of practical exposure or experiential learning when implementing the curriculum.

Core learning outcomes

For these learning outcomes, the purpose of exposing students to the use of research animals is to put the knowledge, skills and attitudes statements into context. It does not require the student to undertake any hands-on research with animals. This exposure could be achieved through observation of a research animal, through the use of reputable and realistic simulations/videos, or in a laboratory or animal facility if available.

Nonetheless, every student who wishes to, should be supported in gaining opportunities to observe the use of a research animal in a real-life setting: that is, in a laboratory or animal facility. The educational aims are for the student to understand:

  • the reality of using research animals
  • their personal moral and ethical boundaries
  • their personal response of the use of research animals, and how this impacts upon their career choices

We are aware that not every institution has the capability to offer the opportunity to observe the real-life use of a research animal. We are working with partners to explore how we can realise this requirement.

Experiential learning outcomes

For these experiential learning outcomes, we think it is important that students are exposed to the use of research animals to provide experiential learning. Rather than being prescriptive, we ask educators/supervisors to decide how best to achieve the desired learning/research outcome. We endorse a tiered approach, taking the 3Rs into context. By this we mean that we recommend the appropriate use of reputable and realistic simulations, cadavers and experiments conducted under delegated authority. In addition, we would support the use of Home Office Personal Licences (or equivalent) with relevant supervisory conditions in circumstances where justified on educational/research grounds.