A thorough literature search should be undertaken, to prevent unnecessary repetition of animal studies and to ensure optimal design of new protocols, including the implementation of refinements to methodology.
The use of systematic reviews to draw new conclusions from already published data, instead of planning new animal studies, should also be considered ('Towards Evidence-Based Research').
Literature searches should be well documented, including information on:

  1. The databases and other sources used, and dates of access
  2. The keywords and search components used
  3. The information centres consulted
  4. Evidence that the animal studies have not been performed previously, or that repetition is justified
  5. Consultation of relevant guidelines for specific parts of the study
  6. The justification for the choice of species and (where applicable) the strain
  7. Evaluation of the biology, behaviour and welfare needs of the species to be used
  8. The likelihood of replicability of the studies in another location. This is particularly important in experiments on aquatic organisms, where local variations in water chemistry may be crucial
  9. The likelihood, if relevant, of translatability to other species

Extensive guidance on literature searching is available (e.g. the EURL ECVAM Search Guide). Use of databases which generate unique URLs when searches are performed, such as the Norecopa website, are preferable, since this facilitates repetition and evaluation of the search.

Searching for information on 3Rs and 3Rs Resources is the title of a presentation that was included in the FRAME/VetBioNet Training School in Experimental Design and Statistical Analysis of Bioscience and Biomedical Experiments, held on 9-11 January 2019 at the University of Nottingham, U.K. It aims to give you an awareness of the need to conduct effective searches and the problems associated with searching, as well as basic search skills and increased knowledge of available resources. Norecopa has been given permission to publish the presentation here. A slightly older version is available on YouTube.
The author, Dr Hudson-Shore is dedicated to improving training provision and contributing to learning and development within organisations and institutions through her work with colleagues at the Centre for Applied Bioethics (CAB), University of Nottingham. CAB is very interested in developing and providing training in 3Rs, ethics, implementation of animal experimentation legislation and the social impact of research, both for animal related studies and scientific research more broadly. If you feel that you and your research group could benefit from professional development in these areas please get in touch so that we can discuss how we might assist you: Dr Michelle Hudson-Shore or Dr Kate Millar.

Registries of animal studies
Animal Study Registry, Germany
Preclinicaltrials.eu
Should preclinical studies be registered? (Anderson & Kimmelman, 2015)
PROSPERO: An international prospective register of systematic reviews, established by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in the UK 

More resources
Worksheet for a literature search for alternatives (USDA/ARS/NAL/AWIC)
TextBase: a database of textbooks and other literature within Laboratory Animal Science and related topics
Write a Scientific Abstract in 6 Steps
Software Tools for Literature Screening in Systematic Reviews in Biomedical Research

This page was updated on 09 September 2019

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