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MISSING IN ACTION: Millions of animals are unaccounted for in cruel biomedical experiments

A considerable number of animals used in experiments do not get reported because the results of the studies didn’t find anything noteworthy, or aren’t deemed interesting enough.

DALMEET SINGH CHAWLA: Most animals used in biomedical experiments are not accounted for in published papers, a first-of-its-kind study suggests. The analysis found that only one-quarter of more than 5500 lab animals used over a 2-year period at one university in the Netherlands ended up being mentioned in a scientific paper afterward. The researchers believe the pattern could be similar at institutions around the world, resulting in potentially millions of animals disappearing from scientific studies… Small animals, including mice, rats, and rabbits — which made up 90% of the total — were most often missing in action: Only 23% of them showed up in publications, versus 52% of sheep, dogs, and pigs…

Scientists have long suspected that a considerable share of animal studies doesn’t get published. That could be because the results aren’t deemed interesting enough, or the study didn’t find anything noteworthy. But many academics argue that such “negative” results are important and worth publishing, and that failing to do so constitutes publication bias. Yet getting a handle on this problem has been hard because it’s difficult to track how many animals scientists use—and what happens with them. Researchers usually list such details in applications for ethical approval, but those often remain confidential…

For the new study, researchers asked scientists at three University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU) departments for permission to review the study protocols they had filed with an animal ethics committee in 2008 and 2009… The researchers also surveyed the scientists involved to find out why so many animals were missing. The most common reasons they gave were that the studies didn’t achieve statistical significance, a controversial but commonly used threshold for publication; that the data were part of a pilot project; and that there were technical issues with the animal models.

But none of these is a valid excuse to not publish your findings in the scientific record, says study co-author Kimberley Wever, a metascientist at Radboud University Medical Center. “All animal studies should be published, and all studies are valuable for the research community”… Not publishing all research means other scientists may waste time, effort, and money redoing studies that have previously failed, Wever says. SOURCE…

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