Max Planck Society Issues White Paper on Animal Research

On January 12, 2017, the Max Planck Society (MPS) in Germany published a white paper on the use of animals in basic research. MPS is a non-profit research organization made up of 83 Max Planck Institutes and facilities.

According to the report, animal research is still a vital component of life sciences research. It goes on to state that balancing the harms and benefits of animal research “remains an extremely challenging task” even beyond legal and regulatory requirements. To address these ethical concerns, the report calls for an informed discourse among all stakeholders. As part of this dialogue, scientists need to communicate “the motives behind their research, the methods they apply, and the indeterminate nature of basic research.”

MPS plans to develop a coordinating team to improve animal welfare. This will include promoting best practices and the 3Rs philosophy of reducing, refining, and replacing animal studies when it is appropriate to do so. The coordinating team’s tasks include promoting the highest quality of science to maximize benefit to humans and animals; encouraging and financing alternatives to the use of animals; and advocating for transparent and proactive communication on animal research.

According to the white paper, MPS scientists recognize their responsibility to promote the advancement of animal welfare. This responsibility is designated as a “4th R.” To achieve this goal, MPS will work towards improving the social environment of research animals; further refining the scientific basis for determining the sentience, pain, consciousness, and intelligence of research animals; and engaging the public on animal ethics.

The report represents discussions from two MPS workshops held on May 26, 2015 and January 13, 2016. A partial translation of the report begins on page 31 of the white paper.