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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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The Role of the Statistician in the Scottish Agricultural and Biological Research Institutes


Iain J. McKendrick

Several of the Scottish Agricultural and Biological Research Institutes carry out research on domestic animal health and welfare. Statistical services are provided by Biomathematics & Statistics Scotland, a sister research organisation. At one of these institutes, a statistician has been an integral member of the animal experiments and ethics committee for over 10 years, and each animal experiment is examined by the committee statistician as part of the review process. This paper will describe this review process, and then discuss those areas in which statistical advice has had most impact in the reduction of animal numbers. It is suggested that most benefit does not come from simple sample-size calculations, but rather from the application of the principles of good experimental design and close collaboration between the scientist and the statistician in the design and analysis of experiments. The final conclusion is that scientists welcome constructive, long-term statistical input, although budgetary issues can prove to be a barrier.