CASE STUDY: Be Open about Animal Research Day #BOARD21

Thursday 1st July 2021 is “Be Open about Animal Research Day”: #BOARD21. A global social media campaign supported by the European Animal Research Association (EARA). #BOARD21 aims to celebrate the increasingly  proactive approach by the biomedical community to communicate about animal research. Here at Agenda Life Sciences, we have many initiatives to promote open communications about animal research which we’d like to share with you. Our Head of Facility Management, Laura Gilbey, answers #BOARD21’s questions about our activities supporting openness:

How does your institution communicate about the use of animals in research?
We communicate about animal research via our website, social media platforms and face to face. We interact with a broad audience, each wanting different information for different purposes and that is why we support such a broad approach.

Click to view our Animals in Research Position.

Can you give us an example of your proactive approach to communications?
Our interactions with students at colleges and universities throughout the UK brings information about animal research to the classroom. This is proactive as students interested in science and animal care don’t need to navigate the relatively unfamiliar animal research sector to find informative, truthful and balanced information. Tutors, lectures and career guidance teams frequently attend our educational outreach events, so even students we don’t meet have a source of guidance on what future opportunities are available to them.

Doing this face to face allows us to answer questions about what, why and how we perform animal research. It encourages an open discourse made of all opinions. The physical presence highlights to the next generation of scientists and animal care professionals that animal research is no longer a topic people are afraid to talk about and that we are people they can relate to.

Throughout COVID-19, where the classroom became a virtual environment, we were still welcomed by many colleges and universities to host sessions online. We made our presentations available to teaching staff and participated in careers guidance sessions online. Home working has not been a barrier to our communications!

What are the rewards of talking about the use of animals in research?
I find it very rewarding when students comment after our chats, that animal research isn’t what they thought it would be. When they reach out for more information because they’re interested in learning more. When I meet an animal technician and its someone I’ve met at a lecture during their education. When I see on LinkedIn a student I’ve spoken with has secured a job as an animal technician. I find all these things rewarding because it’s adding to that individual, and society’s, understanding of animal research.

What are the challenges of speaking about animal research?
Like on any other topic, there will always be a range of opinions. It can be challenging to talk to an audience who hold a different opinion to yours, yet we do it all the time. For managers and business leaders reading this post, do you always talk to your teams knowing they will support everything you say? Probably not. You most likely will anticipate a challenge or two from time to time. But does this stop you talking? To the broader audience, do your best friends all support the same football team, or listen to the same music? Probably not. But would it stop you talking about football or music?

So, the real challenge is not about facing challenging opinions, but rather one of confidence.

Why do you think it is important to support #BOARD21?

I hope #BOARD21 gives inspiration to organisations on ways to communicate about animal research. I hope with more information shared, society learns a little more about the incredibly important work our sector and our scientists do. I hope other organisations and leaders see the rewards over the challenges, to encourage continued openness well after #BOARD21 is over. And most of all I hope if you have read this and want to know more about how you can support open communications in your organisation, you’ll ask us. We’d be happy to talk!