Using the 3Rs to support excellent science across GW4

November 30, 2018
Jessica Eddy

The National Centre for Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) is a scientific organisation established by Government to support the scientific community to advance and implement the 3Rs. Here, Dr Jessica Eddy, the recently appointed NC3Rs Regional Programme Manager for GW4 talks about her role, which is part-funded by GW4, and how she can help scientists and animal care staff.

Where did the idea of having regional posts come from?

In 2014 the NC3Rs conducted interviews with key scientific opinion formers for the development of its ten-year vision. Many of those interviewed reported that the extent of 3Rs implementation within UK research organisations varies, despite the regulatory framework and the policies of major research funding bodies. Difficulties in keeping up with relevant 3Rs initiatives and a lack of time and appropriate structures to support implementation of the latest 3Rs advances were considered to be key challenges

To address this, the NC3Rs committed to providing universities with Regional Programme Managers. There are now four regional staff in post supporting 11 universities across the UK.

What does your job involve?

The Regional Programme Managers provide expert advice on the 3Rs and disseminate the work of the NC3Rs, helping to improve quality of science and animal welfare locally.

I started in June of this year and have mainly been focused on increasing my visibility across each of the four universities; meeting Heads of Departments, Research Directors and giving talks to departments and animal facilities. These introductory meetings are key to promoting my role, outlining the support I can provide, and generating priority areas to focus on at the different institutions.

I work with individual researchers to provide tailored 3Rs advice on project licences and grant funding applications. For applications to the NC3Rs funding schemes, I can advise on whether the research project is within remit, whether it has the potential to be competitive, and how it can be strengthened.

I am currently organising a cross-institution GW4 3Rs symposium, which will be hosted in Cardiff this year on 6 December. This event will showcase the excellent 3Rs-related research taking place across the four universities and will provide an opportunity for researchers to share ideas to further implement the 3Rs, leading to better quality research. As well as this I organised a workshop on experimental design and the NC3Rs Experimental Design Assistant (EDA) tool, which took place at the University of Exeter on 28 November. An EDA workshop will be arranged for each of the GW4 universities.

I also work closely with the other Regional Programme Managers, having regular catch ups to share best practice across the university consortia.

What are the main challenges of the job?

Getting to know the structures of each of the universities and who to go to with queries takes time. Fortunately, at each university I have an academic mentor and an animal facility lead who have all been extremely helpful, connecting me with important networks and contacts.

What are the benefits of collaborating – both to the universities and NC3Rs?

The benefits for the universities are numerous but the main one is that they have a role which is dedicated to the 3Rs with a direct link to the expertise and networks of the national 3Rs centre. With most if not all queries, I can either help directly or put the enquirer in touch with someone who can. This helps institutions and individuals to more easily engage with the 3Rs and get initiatives adopted into practice quicker.

The role also facilitates collaboration, knowledge exchange and the sharing of best practice across the universities under GW4.

The NC3Rs benefits by having engagement in the 3Rs expanded. Working directly with these institutions means that I can encourage grant applications from people who might not normally apply to the NC3Rs but who may have developed a tool or technique that could be relevant for replacing, reducing or refining animal use, giving the NC3Rs more opportunities to fund excellent 3Rs research and boost 3Rs activity within UK universities.

What’s next for the regional programme?

A free online self-assessment tool is currently being developed for universities to benchmark and track their 3Rs activities and progress.

Another exciting development is that more regional posts are in the pipeline, so watch this space!

Find out more about the NC3Rs.