As part of ongoing efforts to reduce waste and increase the reproducibility of animal research and testing, a group of experts from the UK and Norway, led by the Secretary of Norecopa, has produced a set of guidelines for planning animal experiments:

PREPARE (Planning Research and Experimental Procedures on Animals: Recommendations for Excellence)

The PREPARE guidelines for planning animal experiments complement reporting guidelines such as ARRIVE. The rationale behind PREPARE is that better reporting, although important in itself, cannot improve the quality, reproducibility and translatability of animal studies. Improvements require better planning, from day one, in close collaboration with animal care staff.

PREPARE focuses on a large number of factors which, although they are seldom reported in scientific papers, can dramatically influence the validity and outcome of studies on animals, as well as the health and safety of all those concerned. PREPARE covers all stages of quality assurance, from the management of an animal facility or population to the individual procedures which form part of a study. The guidelines and checklist are based upon the authors' experience over the last 30 years in running accredited animal facilities, collaborating with researchers (including those working with farm animals, fish and wildlife), serving on advisory and regulatory committees, and planning their own animal studies.​

We recommend a 3-step approach to animal research:

  1. Use of the PREPARE guidelines from day 1 of planning, collaborating closely with the animal facility
  2. Use of reporting guidelines such as ARRIVE to ensure the quality of the manuscript to be submitted
  3. Highlighting any advances in the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction or Refinement) made during the study in the manuscript's title and/or abstract (since many databases only index these parts of the paper)

PREPARE is NOT "yet another checklist to prove compliance"!
It is offered on a voluntary basis as an aide memoire to remind scientists of all the topics which may be relevant when planning experiments. Many of these topics do not need to be reported, but they are vital for the success and validity of the experiment, for health & safety, and for animal welfare.

The authors of PREPARE see many parallels to the work of quality assurance in the aviation industry, where ground staff and crew collaborate before and during the flight, and where even experienced pilots on routine flights use checklists to maintain a high standard of performance and safety.

PREPARE consists of two equally important parts:

  1. A 2-page checklist, available in over 20 languages, which summarises the topics to be considered. It can be downloaded here.
  2. A comprehensive website (the menu at the top of this page) with more detailed information, and links to global resources, for each of the topics on the checklist. This website is updated continuously as new resources are published. The website also includes additional items such as a suggestion for a contract between the animal facility and research group, to aid division of labour, costs and responsibility.

PREPARE was published under Open Access in Laboratory Animals. (metrics)

Endorsement and citations of PREPARE
The PREPARE guidelines are rapidly gaining acceptance in the international community. We have constructed a separate page listing some of the endorsements which PREPARE has received.
Citations (Google Scholar)
Web-based presentations of PREPARE
A poster about PREPARE

Please note:
The list of items in PREPARE is offered as a guide and should be adapted to the individual research project, animal species and location. Some elements will be the responsibility of the animal facility itself, rather than the individual research group, since they determine the standard of the facility as a whole. However, a research project often raises questions which are not covered by the facility’s normal work routines. These include activities which have potential health and safety risks, such as the use of micro-organisms, ionising radiation and carcinogens. Early and open dialogue between the facility and research group, to create a good atmosphere for collaboration, is therefore essential. For example, if a facility cannot safely conduct an experiment without structural changes or investment in new equipment, this should be discussed with the research group at an early stage, however tempting it may be to start collaboration on a prestigious project. Animal welfare and ethics committees can be a useful forum for some of this dialogue.

Reference:

Smith, AJ, Clutton, RE, Lilley, E, Hansen KEAa, Brattelid, T. (2018): PREPARE: Guidelines for planning animal research and testing. Laboratory Animals, 52(2): 135-141. DOI: 10.1177/0023677217724823

The costs of Open Access publication of the PREPARE guidelines and the production of conference posters were kindly provided by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW). The paper was pre-published on 3 August 2017 and published in the paper version issued in April 2018.

Click on the picture to see a 3-minute film about PREPARE.

PREPARE film storyboard

Other references

  1. Smith AJ (2020): Guidelines for planning and conducting high-quality research and testing on animals, Laboratory Animal Research 36, 21. doi: 10.1186/s42826-020-00054-0 (metrics)
  2. Smith AJ et al. (2018): Improving animal research: PREPARE before you ARRIVE BMJ 360:k760 (metrics) "Are we are in danger of spending too much time discussing the quality of the lock on the stable door after the horse has bolted?"
  3. Logullo P et al. (2020): Reporting guideline checklists are not quality evaluation forms: they are guidance for writing Health Science Reports 3(2) e165 doi: 10.1002/hsr2.16
  4. Strategic Planning for Research Programmes (FRAME)

The PREPARE co-authors:

Adrian J. Smith1, R. Eddie Clutton2, Elliot Lilley3, Kristine E. Aa. Hansen4 & Trond Brattelid5

1Norecopa, c/o Norwegian Veterinary Institute, P.O. Box 750 Sentrum, 0106 Oslo, Norway; 2Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Easter Bush, Midlothian, EH25 9RG, U.K.; 3Research Animals Department, Science Group, RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex, RH13 9RS, U.K.; 4Section of Experimental Biomedicine, Department of Production Animal Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, P.O. Box 8146 Dep., 0033 Oslo, Norway; 5Division for Research Management and External Funding, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, 5020 Bergen, Norway.

This page was updated on 02 October 2020

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