Laboratory Animals in the Social Sciences and Humanities


Laboratory Animals in the Social Sciences and Humanities

LASSH is an interdisciplinary and international network funded by the Wellcome Trust and the University of Exeter. The aim of the network is to bring perspectives from geography, history, sociology, politics, science and technology studies, bioethics and the arts into dialogue with biological researchers and animal welfare specialists to explore the contributions of the social sciences and humanities for understanding the history and future of laboratory animal welfare.

Animal research has long been a critical and contested mechanism for the production of scientific and biomedical knowledge. The scientific, legal, ethical and social processes for securing acceptable experimental practices have changed historically and are altering again, with increasing demands for research which is transparent, translational and transnational. Yet debates about animal research continue to be presented through simplified dichotomies, either advocating or opposing laboratory animal research. This network will bring together scholars working on the interactions that have shaped the histories and current regulation of animal research to support more reflexive public dialogue and build productive relations between research in the sciences, humanities, social science and policy.


The network has the following specific aims:

  1. To foster interdisciplinary research on laboratory animal welfare, through creating opportunities for two-way exchange across different disciplinary perspectives;
  2. To explore how concepts, data and skills from the social sciences and humanities could facilitate reflection on and realization of animal welfare;
  3. To identify and disseminate resources, though publications and online resources, which indicate the value of the interpretative social sciences for understanding the social dimensions to laboratory animal welfare;
  4. To further research at this interface that is of interest to scholars in the humanities and social sciences and relevance to practitioners and policy-makers;
  5. To develop a collaborative review and future agenda for humanities and social scientific research on laboratory animal welfare and support future grant development.


This dialogue was developed through two structured workshops funded by the Wellcome Trust (Society and Ethics) and the University of Exeter (Humanities, Arts and Social Science project development fund).

Workshop #1 (June 2014): The History and Future of the 3Rs: Interdisciplinary Contributions and International Perspectives
This meeting showcased contemporary research by the organizing committee and other invited experts on the history and social science of laboratory animal welfare, focusing on the emergence, implementation and future of commitments to reduce, refine and replace animals in laboratory research.
Workshop #2 (October 2014): Developing a collaborative agenda for humanities and social scientific research on laboratory animal welfare
This workshop followed innovations in ‘crowdsourcing’ research priorities by bringing stakeholders, scientists and social scientists into conversation through an experiment in devising a collaborative future agenda for humanities and social scientific research on laboratory welfare.

The work of the network is continuing in the development of a grant for future social science and humanities research which makes a significant and meaningful contribution to the ongoing implementation of laboratory animal welfare. For further information about the network, please contact Gail Davies or any other of the network organisers.