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Bateson Review of primate research published

Bateson CoverA panel of scientists chaired by Professor Sir Patrick Bateson looked at projects that used non-human primates between 1997 and 2007 and has made a number of recommendations based on the results.


Each piece of research was judged according to the scientific quality and importance of the research, the probability of medical and public benefit, and the likelihood of animal suffering. The availability of alternatives was also taken into account.


The panel concluded that in many cases the use of NHPs was justifiable even in the context of current understanding of animal welfare and advances in knowledge that might now render some work on living animals unnecessary.


However, it was concerned about a proportion(approximately 9 per cent) that appeared to produce no significant scientific, medical or social benefit.


The panel's recommendations include:

  • subjecting all applications for funding to use NHPs to rigorous review
  • examining the justification for choosing primates as the test species and  whether human subjects could be used as an alternative
  • the potential for use of in vitro and in silico approaches as alternatives

The panel stressed the ethical imperative that maximum benefit should be derived from experiments using primates and that all data should be shared. members said that researchers using NHPs have a moral obligation to publish their results, even if they are negative, to prevent unnecessary duplication of work.


Funding bodies should take care to support only those projects that are likely to produce scientific, medical or social benefits and they should encourage the use of less invasive techniques such as neuroimaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation when possible.


The panel also said that further reviews should be carried out periodically to assess the impact of NHP research.


The Bateson Review was commissioned and funded by  The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences
Research Council (BBSRC), Medical Research Council (MRC) and Wellcome Trust. Its aims were to:

  • assess the quality, outputs and impacts of research in this area on advancing knowledge in human and animal health;
  • identify the strengths and weaknesses of the funded science in this field;
  • inform their future science and funding strategies;
  • feed the outcomes of the review into any Government strategy on NHP use.


FRAME is deeply concerned about the use of non-human primates in research because their sentience and social nature means that the costs to them of experimentation and captivity are very high. The use of laboratory primates is contentious. Debates are often very polarised with no obvious way of reaching a comprise and FRAME is researching the question in order to identify ways to reduce the number of monkeys used in experiments.

The full report can be found here