Special Issue: Science, Culture, and Care in Laboratory Animal Research

Gail Davies, Beth Greenhough, Pru Hobson-West and Rob G. W. Kirk
Publication date

Member of the Animal Research Nexus Team ran a workshop in Exeter in 2014, which focused on 'The History and Future of the 3Rs'. This charted the emergence and development of principles around replacement, reduction, and refinement in animal research. The outcomes of these conversations are now published as a special issue of the journal Science, Technology and Human Values on ‘Science, Culture, and Care in Laboratory Animal Research’.

The editorial, led by Gail Davies, connects questions of responsibility and care in social theory with debates about current laboratory practices. This explores the multiplicity of roles enacted by those who use and care for animals in research, the distribution of 'feelings that matter' across species and spaces of laboratory animal practice, and the growing importance of 'cultures of care' in animal research.

The first paper, by Rob Kirk, looks back to the 1950s to chart how the history of the 3Rs intersected with the diverging cultures of the sciences and humanities at the time, and introduces the possibility of reconnecting these today. The second historical paper, by Tone Druglitro, focuses on the spaces of laboratory animal care in Norway on several scales, from the institutional divisions between experiments and animal care, to the transnational community of scientists and large-scale standardization practices involved in professionalising animal care.

Shifting to the present, Beth Greenhough and Emma Roe look at the role of animal technologists in implementing the 3Rs today, interested in how technology, regulation, and behaviour can foster and sustain a 'culture of care'. Another role is foregrounded by Pru Hobson-West and Ashley Davies exploring how Named Veterinary Surgeons, and others, interpret the concept of animal sentience and how this links to wider societal concerns though their use of imaginary of societal sentience. Looking to the future, Carmen McLeod and Sarah Hartley speculate on how ideas about responsible research and innovation might intersect with existing ideas about the 3Rs in animal research.

Two generous commentaries respond to and extend our work. Carrie Friese and Nathalie Nuyts offer insights from their bibliometric work on how and why the 3Rs became central to laboratory animal governance in the UK. Kristin Asdall positions the collection within critical STS debates around the recognition of history, relations between the textual and the material, and the performance of pragmatist methodologies in the present.

We are very grateful to the Wellcome Trust for funding the workshop which brought us together for this initial exploration of interdisciplinary approaches to the 3Rs and has which contributed to the development of our in the Animal Research Nexus Programme.