Design and reporting of animal experiments

There is increasing concern about the potential for improving the design and reporting of animal experiments. Some of the concerns are summarised here. In response to this, Experimental design is discussed in more detail in connection with the PREPARE guidelines.

Resources about contingency plans and preparedness, relevant to the Covid-19 pandemic and other emergencies.

This page contains a collection of links to resources on the design of animal experiments, including statistical analysis. It also contains guidance on reporting animal studies (including reporting of critical incidents), since the two are inter-related.

Videos of presentations at a workshop in May 2018 on experimental design, aiming to improve peer review of in vivo research proposals, highlight some of these issues.

Dr. Michael Festing has made enormous contributions to the science of experimental design and statistical analysis. Some of his resources are mentioned below. A more complete list can be viewed here.

The Design of Animal Experiments: Reducing the use of animals in research through better experimental design (Festing, 2016). An interactive CD based on the first edition of the book has been produced. Topics on the CD include:
Choice of animal model; The experimental unit; Use of valid statistical methods; Increasing precision; Increasing the use of statistical methods; Planning and organising; Self-study and evaluation; Software and references.

The Design and Statistical Analysis of Animal Experiments (Bate & Clark, 2014). The authors have developed a statistical package for animal experiments, InVivoStat a website about statistical methods produced by Dr. Michael Festing. The site includes information on, among other topics:

  1. Experimental units
  2. Avoiding bias
  3. Power and sample size
  4. Controlling variability
  5. Experimental designs
  6. Factorial experiments
  7. Strains of mice and rats
  8. Statistical analysis
  9. Literature
  10. Self-test 

Teaching Experimental Design (Derek Fry)

Strategic planning poster from FRAME

Guidelines for conducting a pilot study

The Experimental Design Assistant (EDA) is an online tool to help researchers both design animal experiments with a minimum of animals and apply appropriate statistical methods when analysing the results.

Does age matter? The impact of rodent age on study outcomes The findings of an NC3Rs working group on the consideration of rodent age.

There are major concerns about the lack of details on pain management in papers reporting experiments involving survival surgery.

Health risks when working with animal experiments.

Norecopa arranged a seminar on 11 June 2009 where Dr. Manuel Berdoy, Oxford University, gave three lectures entitiled "Statistics: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly". The lectures discussed, among other topics, p-values, power analysis, calculation of group size, experimental design and control of variation. His lecture notes can be downloaded here.

Online courses arranged by the University of Oxford, including statistics training and data analysis

FRAME Training School on Experimental Design and Statistics (held in Voss, Norway, 1-3 February 2016 - Report from the meeting)

The American Statistical Association has issued a statement warning scientists about undue trust on p values when evaluating treatment effects

A statistical guide for authors, produced by the journal Animal.

Principles of Experimental Design for the Life Sciences
 by Murray R. Selwyn

Guidelines for the design and statistical analysis of experiments using laboratory animals (Festing & Altman, 2002)

Experimental Design and Statistics - volume 55, issue 3 of the ILAR Journal (2014)

A list of textbooks on statistics and experimental design, produced by FRAME

How to conduct a literature search by Alice Tillema, Radboud University

Database searches and resources for non-animal methods (a presentation by Michelle Hudson-Shore, FRAME)

Reporting of critical incidents in animal research

The CIRS-LAS system (Critical Incident Reporting System in Laboratory Animal Science) can be used to report critical incidents which occur during animal studies.

Guidance for writing manuscripts

The PREPARE guidelines for planning animal experiments

The ARRIVE guidelines for reporting animal experiments

The EQUATOR network: Enhancing the Quality and Transparency Of Health Research. List of reporting guidelines.

The MERIDIAN network (Menagerie of Reporting Guidelines Involving Animals)

Guidelines for design and reporting of animal pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic studies

Reporting checklist for life science articles, produced by the Nature Publishing Group

The reproducibility of research and the misinterpretation of p-values

CONSORT: guidelines for reporting parallel group randomised trials

Animal Pharmacokinetic/Pharmacodynamic Studies (APPS) Reporting Guidelines (Singh J et al., 2018)

The Principal Investigator Advisor Newsletter

Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts submitted to Biomedical Journals (Vancouver Convention)

Reporting the Results of an Animal-based Scientific Investigation - an edited version of a guide produced by Arieh Bomzon and presented at the 2016 FELASA Congress.

Strategies for considering alternative approaches to animal experiments:

The Focus on Alternatives (FOA) initiative has produced two excellent posters outlining means of addressing the three R's when planning animal experiments.  A general poster about early planning and one illustrating a worked example within oncological research can be downloaded here in pdf format.

Other literature

Festing M (2018): On determining sample size in experiments involving laboratory animals 

Degrees of freedom in Planning, Running, Analyzing, and Reporting Psychological Studies: A Checklist to Avoid p-Hacking

Detecting and avoiding likely false-positive findings - a practical guide.

The seven deadly sins of statistical misinterpretation, and how to avoid them

The NOAH (National Office of Animal Health, UK) Compendium of Veterinary Datasheets, Withdrawal Periods and Veterinary Poisons Information Service

Practical guides produced by ECHA to requirements under REACH, CLP and BPR, including How to use alternatives to animal testing to fulfil your information requirements for REACH registration.

This page was updated on 30 April 2020

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