We recently wrote about the range of existing venues, activities, and materials designed to encourage public dialogue and informed discussion about animal research. Many individuals, institutions, and organizations contribute to public outreach and education efforts. They also take active roles in dialogue about continuing changes in practice and policy concerning animal welfare and the conduct of animal research. This post is the first in a series hosted by Speaking of Research to highlight a wide range of individuals and groups devoted to consideration of animal research.
American Psychological Association: Committee on Animal Research and Ethics
Scientific societies are sometimes portrayed as being loath to openly advocate for animal research. It’s time to lay that myth to rest. A wide range of scientific societies actively support and advocate for the animal research conducted by its members, including the American Psychological Association (APA), of which we are members.
APA has one of, if not the oldest, governance groups dedicated to safeguarding and promoting ethical research with nonhuman animals. The APA Committee on Animal Research and Ethics (CARE) was established in 1925 by psychologists who were also animal researchers and were concerned about animal welfare during surgical experiments.
For over eighty years, CARE (or one of its precursors) has played a leading role in promoting and supporting ethical research with nonhuman animals in the behavioral and psychological sciences. As early as 1925, many research psychologists recognized both the need for attention to animal welfare and the need to participate actively in public discussion of this work. They also recognized that psychologists have appropriate expertise to make unique contributions to each of these goals. The early membership of CARE reflects this expertise and the range of research areas represented by the committee, including for example: Edward Tolman, Robert Yerkes, Frank Beach, Harry Harlow, Neal Miller, and Paul Thomas Young.
In keeping with its mission, CARE advocates at the federal level by promoting evidence-based legislation and regulatory proposals that enhance animal welfare while at the same time support valuable research.
Recognizing the need to maintain the public’s trust in science, in general, and animal research in particular, CARE’s educational and outreach activities focus on disseminating accurate information about nonhuman animal research in psychology, including a brochure and a DVD series for classroom use at the high school and early college levels.
CARE also takes an active role in science education. CARE encourages teachers at the K-12 level to expose their students to the responsibilities and obligations that are integral to conducting research with nonhuman animals. One way to accomplish this is by involving students in science fair projects that include animals. To assist these teachers, CARE developed and routinely updates its Guidelines for the Use of Animals in Behavioral Projects in Schools (K-12).
CARE provides valuable resources for researchers. These include developing and updating a set of guidelines for ethical conduct in the care and use of animals. Adherence to these guidelines is a requirement of all research articles published in APA scientific journals. Furthermore, the APA recognizes that ethical standards and guidance for treatment of animals in research are not static and evolve with new scientific evidence. As a result, the society maintains a dynamic process for continuing evaluation and updating of the guidelines.
Finally, CARE provides resources for researchers who are targeted by anti-animal research groups. Support and encouragement is extended to institutions to maintain their animal research programs and to continue supporting their faculty who conduct such research.
Contrary to the misperception that scientific societies do little to advocate for animal research, even a brief review of the APA CARE history and current activities demonstrate a long-standing and effective commitment to this goal. But more importantly, psychologists recognized and acted decades ago to strongly support the ethical use of animals in research and to consider the balance of animal welfare and scientific progress. CARE’s activities support not only the APA membership of over 154,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultant, and students but the field of psychology as a whole, as well as all scientists who conduct research with animals.
Barbara Kaminski, PhD, APA CARE member, (2008-2011), Division 25 and Division 28
George F. Michel, PhD, APA Fellow, Division 3 and Division 6
Allyson J. Bennett, PhD, APA CARE member (2011-2013), Division 6