The Search for Animal Alternatives
The Animal Welfare Act Regulations, Section 2.31 and USDA (Policy #11 and #12) require that a written narrative be provided by the Principle Investigator (PI) to determine whether or not alternatives exist to procedures which may cause pain or distress in animals used for teaching or research. This guide was established by librarians at UIUC to assist animal users with this federally mandated responsibility.
What's the IACUC?
The UIUC Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) has been established in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act and Public Health Service Policy on the Humane Care and Use of Animals. The function of the IACUC is to provide oversight and assistance in ensuring compliance to all laws, regulations, and policies governing the care and use of research and teaching animals.
Tips for Selecting a Database
The UIUC Libraries subscribe to a number of online databases that index and abstract most of the journal literature in the biological and medical sciences. These online resources make keyword and subject searching relatively easy. However, selecting the most appropriate database(s) to search and the most effective terminology is not always an easy task. Databases frequently used for alternatives searches include MEDLINE, BIOSIS, CAB Abstracts, AGRIS and AGRICOLA. Depending on the subject, searching several of these databases for alternatives is considered adequate by the IACUC. In addition to the Library's online databases, a number of excellent Internet sources for alternatives are available here.
Selecting the Appropriate Terminology
A thorough literature search is important before the start of any new research project in order to prevent duplication of work already performed and to establish priority. An effective literature search strategy incorporates keywords and concepts that describe the project and/or area of study. The original project literature search can serve as the foundation for an animal alternatives search by adding keywords used in the scope of the 3R's (refine, reduce, replace).
Problems may arise in choosing appropriate keywords to develop an effective search strategy that yields the most pertinent information. The databases listed in this guide, with the exception of BIOSIS, all contain controlled vocabulary terms for locating alternative animal use procedures. When the controlled terms are employed to create a subset of the database, searching for specific animals, procedures, chemicals, etc within that subset will narrow the subject and hopefully, improve relevancy of the search results
Appropriate search terms or keywords include animal testing alternatives, alternatives, tissue culture, cell culture, simulation, in vitro, and model. Additional keywords can be found on the UC Center for Animal Alternatives web page. These terms are useful, but are not the only terminology possible.
The US Department of Agriculture's Animal Welfare Information Center (USDA/AWIC) provides an excellent worksheet for developing search strategies that help determine if alternatives exist and whether the protocol unnecessarily duplicates previous research.
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