The Three S's

The Three S's is a tenet attributed to Professor Carol M. Newton (1925-2014):

  • Good Science
  • Good Sense
  • Good Sensibilities


Professor Newton did not, to the best of Norecopa's knowledge, herself publish the 3S-tenet. The only reference to it of which we are aware, is in the proceedings of an international symposium organised by the Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources (ILAR) in Washington, D.C. in October 1975.

Norecopa has written a paper about Newton's 3S-tenet, in collaboration with Penny Hawkins, RSPCA:

Smith AJ & Hawkins P: Good Science, Good Sense and Good Sensibilities: The Three Ss of Carol Newton.

(pdf version) (abstract)

Powerpoint presentation on the Three S's

The purpose of the symposium was to examine the past, present and future contributions of animals to human health and welfare; the use and limitations of cell, tissue and organ cultures; and the application of statistical and computer technology to biomedical research as a substitute for living systems. Carol Newton was an invited speaker. One of the impetuses for arranging the meeting was the increased concern over laboratory animal welfare and a desire to improve project design. A key issue at the symposium was whether intact animals could indeed be eliminated from use in research, or their numbers reduced by the introduction of in vitro techniques and computer simulations.

Carol Newton’s presentation was entitled Biostatistical and Biomathematical Methods in Efficient Animal Experimentation. She drew the participants attention to challenges with animal research which are just as real today as they were in 1975: biological variability, missing data and the problem of unknown interactions underlying measured variables. She saw the role of biomathematicians as vital in this process. She drew attention to a problem which is still relevant today: the lack of 'courses that include an interrelated blend of computer, statistical and modeling methods with primary emphasis on their application to real biomedical problems'. Experimental design and correct statistical analysis are still major issues in modern laboratory animal science. However, her presentation did not mention the Three S’s, neither did the recorded discussions afterwards.

Later in the symposium, the Canadian veterinary pathologist Dr. Harry C. Rowsell, who established the Canadian Council on Animal Care in 1968, gave a presentation entitled The Ethics of Biomedical Experimentation. In the penultimate paragraph of the proceedings, he is quoted as saying:

In closing, it must be reiterated that the value and contribution of the experimental animal cannot be questioned. The issue is the requirement to practice, in animal experimentation, the concept of replacement, reduction and refinement. All are consistent with the production of valid, meaningful results that, hopefully, will allow replacement of partially successful methods of disease treatment, in both man and animal, with those that are fully effective. To the three R’s we may add Dr. Carol Newton’s three S’s: good science, good sense and good sensibilities.

This is, as far as Norecopa is aware, the only written reference to the Three S’s, and it is of interest that they are mentioned in the same context as the Three Rs of Russell and Burch. Dr. Rowsell passed away in 2006.

Core literature:

Newton CM (1977): Biostatistical and biomedical methods in efficient animal experimentation. In: The Future of Animals, Cells, Models, and Systems in Research, Development, Education, and Testing 267-281, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., ISBN 0-309-02603-2

Rowsell HC (1977): The Ethics of Biomedical Experimentation. In: The Future of Animals, Cells, Models, and Systems in Research, Development, Education, and Testing pp. 267-281, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., ISBN 0-309-02603-2

Smith AJ & Hawkins P (2016): Good Science, Good Sense and Good Sensibilities: The Three Ss of Carol Newton. Animals, 6(11), 70, doi:10.3390/ani6110070

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