Animals in research - 2021 grants

As one of the signatories of the 2014 Concordant on Openness on Animal Research, the Academy of Medical Sciences is committed to transparency around how we conduct, fund and support the use of animals in research.  

In 2021, we awarded 23 grants that proposed to use animals in their research, compared to 28 in 2020 (approximately 18% decrease in terms of numbers of awards).  However, because we made fewer awards in 2021 compared to 2020 (113 and 189, respectively) the proportion of grants, which proposed to use animals, increased to 20.35% (compared to 15% in 2020).   

Specifically, the majority of the grants we fund which propose the use of animals in research are in our Springboard and Starter Grants for Clinical Lecturers schemes. We awarded approximately the same combined number of these awards in 2020 and 2021. Meanwhile, due to budgetary changes (including a reduced ODA budget) we awarded no or fewer grants within other schemes, with GCRF Networking Grants constituting the majority of the reduction. This scheme generally has lower rates of animal use as awards predominantly support travel and network building, rather than research.  

Of the 2021 studies proposing the use of animals: 

  • 20 of the studies proposed using mice 
  • 2 proposed using rats 
  • 1 proposed using gerbils 

As part of our ongoing commitment, the Academy publishes yearly statistics on the number of research grants we have funded that proposed the use of animals, and which species they proposed to use.  

The Academy uses expert peer review to assess all of our research grant applications. In cases where the applications mention the use of animal research, we ensure that the benefits of the research to human and animal health outweigh any potential harm to animals during the research. We only fund research that complies with the law, and all work is carried out in line with strict Home Office guidelines. 

We send relevant applications to be reviewed by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs).** The resulting feedback is provided to members of our grant scheme Selection Panels, to inform their review and discussion of the application. No proposals which required the use of the NC3Rs peer review service were received in 2021. 

The Academy supports the principle that animals should only be used in research when no alternatives exist to find out the same information. We support the principles of the 3Rs to refine, reduce and replace the use of animals in research and our awardees are required to follow ARRIVE guidelines (Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments) in order to minimise unnecessary studies whilst improving the design, analysis and reporting of animal research to maximise the information published. 

For more information about the Academy's position, please see our Statement on the use of animals in research. 

For more information on the Concordat, please visit the dedicated Understanding Animal Research (UAR) website. 

* Defined as applications for which the proposed use of animals would fall under the ‘Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986’ (ASPA), whether based in the UK or internationally. This act regulates the use of any protected animal in research or scientific procedure which may cause pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm to the animal. Protected animals are defined by the act as any living vertebrate apart from man and living cephalopods. Where awards involve the use of animals outside of the UK, applicants are required to  demonstrate in their application that work is conducted to standards equivalent to those in the UK. 

** Including applications which propose the use of non-human primates, dogs, cats, equines and pigs. 

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