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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Ethical Evaluation of Research Proposals by Ethics Panels Advising the European Commission


Roman Kolar

Ethical principles with regard to animal experimentation are referred to in European Union (EU) legislation and other official documents. Therefore, applications for funding of research under the EU’s research programme may undergo an ethical review that is carried out by so-called ethics panels, consisting of experts chosen by the European Commission. The work of these panels differs substantially from that of other ethical committees, as they exist on the institutional, local, regional or national level. Their main purpose is not to decide whether a proposed research can be regarded legal, and therefore should be endorsed or licensed; instead, it is to help the Commission in prioritising its funding. The panels may examine other ethical aspects than those of animal experimentation or animal welfare alone, such as the use of human volunteers. This is reflected by the composition of the panels. Their decisions are normally based on consensus. Even though these decisions may refer to EU legislation, the criteria applied are not restricted to those provided by this legislation. Nevertheless, the various aspects of the Commission’s ethical evaluation system (e.g. formal and practical basic conditions, information content of applications, type of decisions taken, lacking of any quality control) offers opportunities for improvement.