Comment: Recommendations for Improving the Home Office Project Licence Abstracts
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 prompted the Government to evaluate how public understanding about the use of animals in scientific research can be improved and how animal experimentation is regulated within the UK. This resulted in the publication of anonymous project licence abstracts. Here, the abstracts published between December 2004 and October 2005 have been evaluated, by using a scoring system which takes into account their content and format, in order to assess whether they provide information that will facilitate the increased implementation of reduction, refinement and replacement strategies. The potential impact of freely-available Home Office project licence abstracts on public attitudes to animal testing and on the quality of animal-based research, is also discussed. Although some abstracts scored well, in general, the abstracts were found to be severely lacking in detail about the welfare of experimental animals. Thus, the abstracts tend to present a distorted picture of animal-based research. Many abstracts lack the details which would reveal how the licensing criteria had been met. It is concluded that, in their current form, the project abstracts are not sufficiently informative. A number of recommendations are made, which address this problem.