History of the NORINA database

This is a text version of a lecture held in Copenhagen on October 7th 2003 by Karina Smith in connection with the receipt of The Nordic Prize for Alternatives to Animal Experiments.


NORINA has been continually updated since its conception in 1991. It has been maintained for most of that period by Senior Consultant Karina Smith at Norecopa*. To facilitate searching, the products cited in NORINA have been organised into different Types and Categories. There are more than 30 different types of alternatives in the database, including three-dimensional models, video films, interactive CD-ROMs, computer simulations and slide series. Each product has, in addition, been assigned to one or more of over 30 categories, such as Anatomy, Dissection, Pharmacology, Physiology and Surgery. In this way it is possible for users to conduct more specific searches in the database, to narrow the results to the field in which they are interested.

The development of the NORINA database reflects the enormous increase in the number of potential alternatives or supplements to the use of animals that has occurred over the last twenty years. By 1990 veterinarian Richard Fosse, then working at the Vivarium, University of Bergen, had collected information on approximately 40 programs. This information was handed over to the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science in 1991, and became the start of the NORINA project. The database was initially sold on floppy discs. By 1996, NORINA was so large, and in demand worldwide, that a decision was taken to place the entire database on the Internet, free of charge. The U.K. organisation Laboratory Animals Ltd. kindly donated the NORINA server at the Veterinary School, along with several of the computers used for the development and compilation of the database.

NORINA benefited from 1996 to 2005 from close collaboration with Rees Griffiths at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.  For nearly 10 years Rees provided a mirror site (identical copy) of the database on a server at this university, making it easier for users on the Pacific coast to access NORINA.  Rees was also instrumental in designing NORINA's search engine.  This mirror site was disbanded when a more powerful database was launched in 2005 as part of a new website (oslovet.nvh.no). This website, which in addition to NORINA contained other resources collected by the Laboratory Animal Unit at the Veterinary School, was transferred to Norecopa in 2011, and has been updated continuously since. The new version of Norecopa's website launched in 2016 is an integration of norecopa.no and oslovet.nvh.no.

Since NORINA is available free of charge, the project is entirely dependent upon external funding. Since 1996 this funding has come from a wide range of sponsors, including animal welfare organisations, trusts, legacies and the pharmaceutical industry.

NORINA makes extensive use of the Internet's ability to cross-link information. Records include hot links to the suppliers' own websites of products in the database, and in many cases to email addresses of the product authors. Many of the products in NORINA may be borrowed from international loan schemes such as that run by InterNICHE and HSUS. Each of the records in NORINA describing these products contains a hot link to these loan schemes. The scope of the products cited in NORINA has increased dramatically over the years, as new technologies have been adopted for teaching purposes.

Large numbers of animals are still used in teaching and training, both in schools and in the biomedical sciences. Many teachers and pupils are looking for alternatives to traditional dissection classes. The products in NORINA may also be useful in reducing animal use in situations where total replacement is impossible. The training of researchers and technicians in pharmaceutical companies, and of veterinary students, can often be improved by the introduction of audiovisual aids and models, so that the trainee learns the basic elements (and, not least, how to avoid animal suffering) before starting to use live animals.

By providing information on alternatives and supplements to this use of animals, the NORINA database contributes to the implementation of the three R's of Russell & Burch: Replacement, Reduction and Refinement.

*Karina Smith worked on NORINA until she retired in December 2017. The Nordic Society Against Painful Animal Experiments (Nordisk Samfunns Fond mot Smertevoldende Dyreforsøk) granted Norecopa money in June 2018 to restart the work of systematically updating the database, which is now performed by Elisabeth Pagels.

This page was updated on 11 July 2023

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