Like all research, animal experiments should proceed with the consent of society. Research involving animals is emotive and sensitive and is rightly the subject of significant scrutiny and debate. Proactive and positive engagement in this dialogue requires openness about how and why research involving animals takes place. Scientists, and their institutions, must be open about their work and what it entails and actively seek productive discourse.
Engagement and dialogue should not be understood as ‘education’ but rather as a two---way inclusive discourse recognizing that the issues are complex and that there are, and will continue to be, many different views. Positive engagement should not be couched in terms of convincing others of a particular viewpoint, but rather providing an opportunity for people to connect and develop their own informed position. It is important to consider different routes to engage with different audiences, and to build relationships so that the public can talk with researchers about their work.
Positive and productive engagement with those who have different viewpoints can be demanding, and it is understandable that there are concerns about engaging with antagonistic challengers. Aggressive or dismissive dialogue is unhelpful and should be avoided. Rather, respectful discussion with those who have different viewpoints and positions is to be welcomed, and one should seek opportunities to build relations and engage with those who have a different but balanced perspective.
‘Good practice’ tips outlined below can be considered as starting points to build a proactive and positive dialogue on the use of animals in research. Significant scope exists to develop these further and they should be reinterpreted according to the individual context.
Scientists and their institutions should proactively seek opportunities to talk about their research involving animals, within institutions, locally and nationally. Not only does this include engagement in terms of the use of animals as a research model, but also ensuring that when scientific advances have been enabled by the use of animals this information is included as routine.
Scientists should work together within their community and more broadly to develop shared resources and networks to support engagement activity and learn from each other’s experiences.