The LASSH (Laboratory Animals in the Social Sciences and Humanities) network was established in 2014, with support from the Wellcome Trust and the University of Exeter. The aims of this interdisciplinary and international network are to:
We published our collaborative agenda for future humanities and social scientific research on laboratory animal science and welfare in PLOS ONE in July 2016. This article was featured in the Times Higher Education article “These are the questions we should be asking about animal research” on 21 July 2016.
Members of the network are now developing future research proposals on the basis of the collaborative agenda. Please get in touch if you would like more information on our activities.
Gail Davies is Professor in Human Geography and member of Egenis at the University of Exeter. Her academic research explores the changing geographies of science and technology, with specific reference to laboratory animals and biomedical research. She has long-term research interests in fostering innovative forms of public engagement with science and technology. She is a lay member of the UK’s Animals in Science Committee and chairs the LASSH network.
Carrie Friese is Associate Professor in the Sociology Department at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her previous work explored the use of cloning to preserve endangered animals in zoos. She is currently working on a project funded by the Wellcome Trust that explores the role of animal husbandry in translational medicine.
Beth Greenhough is Associate Professor of Human Geography and Fellow of Keble College, University of Oxford, UK. Her research explores the social implications of innovations in the biosciences. She currently is working on a Wellcome Trust funded research project, with Dr Emma Roe (below), exploring how laboratory animal technicians put ethics into practice through the care they provide for laboratory animals.
Pru Hobson-West is a non-clinical lecturer in welfare, ethics and society at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham. She is a social scientist with expertise across the fields of animals and society, animals and ethics, public understanding of science, risk, and science and technology studies. Her current research focuses on developing the emerging field of veterinary sociology and ethics.
Rob Kirk is a Lecturer in Medical History and Humanities at the Centre for the History of Science Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester. His work examines non-human animals in human cultures, particularly nonhuman roles in science, medicine and technology, as well as the place of animals in history and historical writing. His current research investigates the historical origins of laboratory animal care and the 3Rs.
Elisabeth Ormandy's research in the Animal Welfare Program at University of British Columbia explored people’s attitudes and encouraged openness towards animal-based research. She is now Executive Director of the Canadia-based Animals in Science Policy Institute. Elizabeth also sits on the Canadian Council on Animal Care as a representative of the Canadian Bioethics Society.
Emma Roe is a Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Southampton and Honorary Research Associate at the School of Veterinary Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Bristol. Her research focuses on human-animal relationships as performed through food supply chain practices, and animal care practices both on farm and in animal research facilities.
We agree that science gives us evidence to improve practices for animal research and welfare. We also argue that experts in the humanities and social sciences can help understand how and why techniques are taken up in different contexts, how to share learning and improve decision-making, and how to promote openness and better public engagement.
Improving laboratory animal science and welfare involves many questions which social scientists and humanities scholars have researched, or have the capacity to inform, including:
We propose understanding how to improve future laboratory animal science and welfare requires critically-reflective collaboration, linking ways of thinking and doing across research, practice and public engagement.
The LASSH network ran two workshops in 2014–2015, which facilitated cross-disciplinary exchange and developed a collaborative agenda for future research.
The first workshop in Exeter focused on “The History and Future of the 3Rs”. This introduced recent scholarship from historians, sociologists, geographers and artists, using international case studies to explore the contributions of the social sciences and humanities for understanding and implementing the 3Rs in laboratory animal research. The workshop attracted an interdisciplinary audience of 30 people, bringing social and historical research together, as well as facilitating discussion across the wider laboratory animal community.
The outcomes of these conversations are being developed through a special issue of a social science journal on ‘Science, Culture and Care in Laboratory Animal Research’.
The second workshop held in London took participants through a structured deliberative and participatory process to derive the most important questions facing laboratory animal science and welfare, which could be met by new research in the social sciences and humanities. 50 interdisciplinary participants were recruited, invited to propose questions and vote on their priorities from the 136 questions submitted prior to meeting. The interactive workshop enabled participants to discuss and decide on the 30 key questions together.
The outcome, a collaborative agenda for humanities and social scientific research on laboratory animal science and welfare, is now published in PLOS ONE.
articleThe LASSH Network proposes a “Collaborative Agenda for Future Humanities and Social Scientific Research on Laboratory Animal Science and Welfare”. You can read the read the full paper at Davies GF, Greenhough BJ, Hobson-West P, Kirk RGW, Applebee K, Bellingan LC, et al. (2016) Developing a Collaborative Agenda for Humanities and Social Scientific Research on Laboratory Animal Science and Welfare. PLOS ONE 11(7): e0158791, or click to download as PDF.
This community-derived agenda indicates a demand for new research in the humanities and social sciences to inform emerging discussions and priorities on the governance and practice of laboratory animal research, including on issues around:
The process of working together to produce this agenda demonstrates the value of interdisciplinary exchange for improving communication across different research cultures and helps identify ways of enhancing the effectiveness of future research at the interface between the humanities, social sciences, science and science policy.
We would like to thank everyone who has taken part in this process. We welcome your comments and enquiries about our future activities.