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Animals are studied en masse by biologists around the world in a variety of biomedical and basic research studies. All this research benefits humankind and animals alike as it tackles a wide variety of problems ranging from those of conservation biology to medicine. Research with animal subjects is a complex endeavor that requires the cooperation and collaboration of a large number of experts, from the principal investigator through technicians and vivarium staff to regulatory experts. The research must be conducted in a humane manner that adheres to acceptable practices regulated by local, state and federal guidelines, rules and the law. In this short opinion article, we examine the current state of affairs regarding how researchers, animal support staff and regulatory experts work together. We pay particular attention to potential conflicts that may arise from the occasionally distinct roles played by those involved in animal research, and we provide some suggestions as short-and long-term remedies that have not been previously discussed in the literature.
Tsangand Gerlai Laboratory Animal Research (2022) 38:19
Researchers, animal support andregulatory
sta: symbiosis orantagonism?
Benjamin Tsang1,2* and Robert Gerlai1,3
Animals are studied en masse by biologists around the world in a variety of biomedical and basic research studies.
All this research benefits humankind and animals alike as it tackles a wide variety of problems ranging from those of
conservation biology to medicine. Research with animal subjects is a complex endeavor that requires the cooperation
and collaboration of a large number of experts, from the principal investigator through technicians and vivarium staff
to regulatory experts. The research must be conducted in a humane manner that adheres to acceptable practices
regulated by local, state and federal guidelines, rules and the law. In this short opinion article, we examine the current
state of affairs regarding how researchers, animal support staff and regulatory experts work together. We pay par-
ticular attention to potential conflicts that may arise from the occasionally distinct roles played by those involved in
animal research, and we provide some suggestions as short- and long-term remedies that have not been previously
discussed in the literature.
Keywords: Animal welfare, Vivarium, Animal user, Animal support staff, Regulatory staff, Compliance, Animal models
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Increasing administrative bureaucracy and animal wel-
fare requirements is becoming more common in all fac-
ets surrounding the use of animals for research. However,
to date, there has been little to no recommendations or
solutions to these ever-increasing complexities, which
have left animal users, animal care staff, and veterinary
teams in often conflicting situations.
Main text
Research is a complex endeavor. It may have a medical
orientation, i.e., it may on the short- or the long-run lead
to better understanding of a human or animal disease
and/or the development of treatment or cure for the dis-
ease. It may also be about increasing our general knowl-
edge, understanding of the living world, which then,
indirectly though, will also improve quality of life for
us, humans, and for all our non-human fellow animals.
Both types of research are crucial, yet occasionally chal-
lenged with regard to their legitimacy or appropriateness
by some activists who may feel animal research is unethi-
cal. Scientists of both biomedical and basic research-
oriented studies agree that appropriate research can only
be accomplished if the research subjects, animals in this
case, are kept under optimal conditions, and that they
must be healthy and treated well. While some research
may require invasive approaches, procedures that may be
unpleasant or harmful to the animal, scientists also agree
that research on animals must be conducted in a humane
manner. No animal should suffer, and if an invasive pro-
cedure is required, there must be a very good reason for
choosing it. In other words, all alternatives must be con-
sidered first, and suffering must be minimized or com-
pletely eliminated if possible.
But how do we ascertain that this is actually accom-
plished? Can we trust the scientists, animal technicians,
students, all those who conduct the research and actually
Open Access
Laboratory Animal Research
1 Department of Psychology, University of Toronto Mississauga, Toronto,
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article
Page 2 of 6
Tsangand Gerlai Laboratory Animal Research (2022) 38:19
work with the animals? In our several decades long sci-
entific career, our experience has been that the answer to
this question is yes. Nevertheless, it is still crucial to exert
oversight, some control over the research scientist. He/
she may not be aware of all regulations, rules relevant to
his/her research, and/or he/she may not have considered
all alternatives, possible solutions that could lead to the
most humane use of animals in his/her research. Regula-
tory staff could provide such advice and required over-
sight. Regulatory and compliance monitoring procedures
and the roles of committees and representatives involved
in such procedures have been well described in the litera-
ture [1, 2].
In the variety of academic, biopharmaceutical and
biotechnology research laboratories in which we have
worked, we also noticed that research staff often have
to rely upon the expertise of the vivarium animal sup-
port staff, animal technicians and veterinarians, who are
knowledgeable about the maintenance, feeding, breed-
ing, general care and healthcare of animals. is is also
an important component of research. Most scientists
appreciate that without healthy, optimally maintained
animals, appropriate research results cannot be obtained.
us, biomedical and basic research requires coordi-
nated cooperation among all three groups of experts,
research personnel, regulatory experts and animal sup-
port staff. However, representatives of these three pillars
of research may not always work together seamlessly as
they play different roles from which conflicts and misun-
derstandings can arise. In this short opinion article, we
explore a few examples of such conflicts, briefly discuss
the underlying issues, and try to provide short-term as
well as long-term solutions.
The animal support sta andtheir role inresearch
Animal support staff provide a range of services that
cater to the needs of the studied animal species, and
thus help research staff, scientists, students and research
technicians who would like to conduct experiments with
them. In most animal facilities, usual animal support
staff duties include housing maintenance, changing and
cleaning cages or enclosures, food replenishment, and
animal welfare and health related quality checks and pro-
cedures. Without animal support staff, animal research
would likely grind to a halt for most researchers. e spe-
cific husbandry experience of animal support staff and
their routine schedule are invaluable, especially to those
researchers who are adopting a new species or to those
who are less familiar with the needs and species-specific
features of their animal subjects. However, recently yet
another duty has been relegated to animal support staff:
compliance monitoring. New regulatory guidelines often
require increasingly bureaucratic health monitoring, e.g.,
the creation of paper (and/or electronic) trail, document-
ing compliance of research staff with rules and regula-
tions. is novel role for the animal support staff, as
important as it may be, is often perceived by researchers
as policing their work, and may create an adversary rela-
tionship. In simple terms, researchers may feel that peo-
ple “who don’t understand their work” are looking over
their shoulder, and animal support staff may feel that
researchers are “cutting corners and are not listening”. In
some cases, the conflict between animal support staff and
researchers may deteriorate to a “gothca-culture”, poten-
tially ruining the crucial and mutually beneficial coop-
eration between animal support staff and the researcher.
e fundamental issue, to which we will return in a more
general sense later, is the unidirectionality of the relation-
ship between animal support staff and the researcher.
e former has authority and the latter has to comply,
but mechanisms that would allow bidirectional discus-
sions on what is appropriate, what steps may best remedy
perceived or real issues, are often lacking. Consider the
below real-life example we drew from zebrafish research.
Rigid guidelines versusdecades ofexperience: Azebrash
One way compliance may be achieved and monitored
most efficiently is if appropriate guidelines and rules are
designed for how to use animals in research. Such guide-
lines are intended to delineate procedures and actions
the researcher must perform if a specific issue arises. But
research is varied, and animal health and welfare prob-
lems are more complex than what rules, regulations,
guidelines may be able to foresee or tackle. How can ani-
mal support staff and researchers address unforeseen or
novel issues? Here, we use zebrafish, a relative newcomer
in biology research, to exemplify the problem.
Zebrafish are housed in high density system racks that
automatically perform numerous animal husbandry
related procedures, including mechanical, chemical
and biological filtration, salinity (salt concentration)
control as well as water changes. is level of automa-
tion has largely relegated animal support staff to the
aforementioned compliance monitoring roles in most
zebrafish facilities. Despite the training animal support
staff receive on the particular study species, zebrafish
in this case, the required on-line modules and hands-
on demonstrations do not replace decades of aqua-
culture experience. For example, an animal technician
may be taught that a pH range between 6.5 and 7.5 is
ideal for zebrafish. In principle, this is correct as this is
indeed the mid-range of pH values zebrafish may expe-
rience in their natural habitat [3], and this is also the
range most zebrafish facilities employ [46]. Once the
pH recorded from the zebrafish tank is found outside
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Tsangand Gerlai Laboratory Animal Research (2022) 38:19
this range, the recommended corrective measure is to
raise it by adding sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).
us, if the researcher does not respond immediately,
say, he/she does not raise pH from the out-of-range
value of pH 5.5 back to 7.0 (neutral), non-compliance
is noted, the researcher is warned and must take imme-
diate corrective steps. From the perspective of animal
support staff, artificially raising the pH back to the opti-
mal range is the required action, and once achieved
and documented, the issue of non-compliance has been
deemed resolved. However, there are two fundamental
issues with this. One, rapid change from pH 5.5 to 7.0 is
more harmful to zebrafish than keeping the fish at a pH
that is slightly out of range. Two, low pH in aquaculture
systems, including the often-employed high-density
zebrafish rack systems, is the result, and not the cause,
of problems. It is the result of accumulation of excess
amounts of organic waste, resulting from poor filtra-
tion, overfeeding, overcrowding, or the combination
of these factors. Raising pH to meet the required pH
range would only mask the underlying issue. One must
remedy the root cause, and e.g., reduce the amount of
delivered food, decrease stocking density, and/or fix/
improve biological filtration.
Could all the pieces of information described in the
above example be added to the description of required
corrective procedures and guidelines on how to keep
zebrafish? Yes, of course. Could all variations of specific
problems and contribution of unique combinations of
factors and circumstances to such problems be gener-
ally tackled by such guidelines? Naturally, no. What is
the solution then? First, let us unequivocally state that
the issue is not that animal technicians, animal support
staff or researchers using animals are not knowledgeable
enough about animal husbandry, maintenance, health
and welfare, or that one group is better than the other.
e issue is that each member of this team may have
incomplete knowledge. us, only open, collegial dialogs,
discussions, and mutual respect for the talents, back-
grounds and experiences of the team members can lead
to the optimal solution. We deliberately call the group of
people involved a ‘team’. But this is exactly what gets lost
in the hierarchical manner in which animal support staff
and research personnel are currently organized at most
Universities, Academic Research Institutes or Industry
animal research facilities. Animal support staff tell the
researcher what and how to do. Communication is essen-
tially unidirectional. Of course, in most animal facilities
and research studies, people develop good work rela-
tionships and appreciate the importance of bidirectional
communication. Nevertheless, the current design of the
system works against this respectful collaborative spirit.
e solution for this problem we will return below.
Is increased bureaucracy good ornecessary?
We have alluded to this above: one of the most concern-
ing and pervasive issues to date is the disconnect between
placing substantial bureaucratic burden on research staff
and believing that rigid rules, check-sheets, paper trails,
hiring an ever-increasing number of compliance offic-
ers into regulatory positions and strengthening research
oversight are the solution. e main issue here is that
bureaucracy is like an organism that is evolving in one
direction and one direction only: increasing complex-
ity. is “cultural evolution” has led to numerous newly
added layers in how we deal with animal health and wel-
fare issues. Compared to the past, we now must complete
larger number of check-sheets, we have more boxes to
tick, and we have implemented increased oversight. Two
decades ago, there was much less bureaucracy. Animal
support staff and research staff often had more time to
attend to the animals and develop insightful discussions
with each other. Does our currently bloated bureau-
cratic system really better serve the animals employed in
research? We do not think so. e bureaucratic process
creates an illusion. It makes people believe that things are
taken care of, and it also makes the user feel less respon-
sible for taking action. We all have become part of a giant
autonomous conveyor belt. Being a tiny component of
this large machine takes away initiative and personal
responsibility. Increasing bureaucracy and tightened
compliance monitoring, we argue, may accomplish the
opposite of what it was intended to do.
Do we need tosolve anything? Ideas fortheshort run
Do we need to change anything? Do the above exempli-
fied issues really represent problems? Is the system, as it
is set up currently, broken? One can argue that the answer
to these questions is no, the system is actually working. If
one looks at overall research output, i.e., the annual num-
ber of scientific papers published, the number of discov-
eries made per year, and the rapidly advancing fields of
biology, biomedical research and basic research alike, one
can easily argue that nothing is wrong. We are witnessing
exponential growth both in quantity and depth of biol-
ogy research. Our research facilities are well maintained,
and our animals are healthy. But could we do better? We
argue that the rapid advancement of knowledge in animal
research is achieved not because but despite the current
system, despite the problems plaguing the way our ani-
mal support staff, regulatory experts and research staff
work together.
Others may argue that the above exemplified problems
represent the limited experience of the authors of this
paper, or perhaps are unique to a small number of specific
laboratories, research institutes or universities, and do
Page 4 of 6
Tsangand Gerlai Laboratory Animal Research (2022) 38:19
not represent general trends across the world. However,
even a brief survey of the literature suggests otherwise.
For example, Abbott [7] reports on data and conclusions
published by the European Commission regarding the
use of animals in scientific research, and cites the head of
the German Primate Center as saying “complex reporting
requirements put a high administrative burden on scien-
tists and their organizations”. e same author mentions
the conflict between what researchers must endure and
what the European Commission regards as reasonable.
Kwon [8] reports that “Swiss researchers struggle to get
animal experiments approved” due to the increasingly
burdensome, arbitrary and complicated bureaucratic ani-
mal research approval process. e situation is not better
in North America either, as increasing regulatory burden
is a major issue here too [911]. ulin etal. [12], for
example, discuss elevated costs resulting from the ever-
growing regulatory burden as well as the “overly complex
compliance organizations and unnecessary policies and
procedures” in the USA. Discussing similar issues, Hay-
wood and Greene [13] conclude that “overzealous appli-
cation of “requirements” does not necessarily benefit
the animals”, and suggest that “clear and consistent com-
munication among all stakeholders—the institutional
leadership, institutional animal care and use committee
(IACUC), attending veterinarian and staff, and scientists”
is needed to solve the issues. Cornwall [14] in his news-
piece cites a report released by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, National Institutes of Health and the Associ-
ation of American Medical Colleges calling for simplified
regulations and giving “researchers increased say in craft-
ing new rules”. In fact, the problems have been becom-
ing so acute that even workshops have been organized to
discuss how to reform animal research regulations and
reduce regulatory burden [15]. ese problems seriously
affect quality of work with the animals but also impor-
tantly the quality of life of those working with the ani-
mals. Partly due to having to navigate the complexities
of research with animals, mental well-being of laboratory
animal professionals is declining [1618], a major issue
almost never considered in the context of regulating ani-
mal research.
What is the solution? Every University, Research Insti-
tute, Laboratory has some unique local issues. A general,
overarching advice may not work. But reviewing the lit-
erature and based upon our own decades long experi-
ence in a variety of Universities and Industry research
facilities across the Globe suggest that perhaps there
are some common elements in the problems in most
places. ese common problems one may be able to
tackle on the short-run in a similar manner. One of the
problems is communication, as Haywood and Greene
[13] emphasized. Development of proper bidirectional
communication and showing respect among the team of
the three groups of people (animal support staff, regula-
tory experts and research staff ) would go a long way. How
to implement this, of course, depends upon substantial
good will and personal initiatives at the grass roots level.
e second element is bureaucracy. Our experience is
that it has been steadily increasing in most places. Yet,
it should be trivial that reduced bureaucracy is better for
everyone. Fewer boxes to tick by research staff requires
fewer tick-marks to check by animal support staff and
fewer potential issues to deal with for compliance offic-
ers, and more time for researchers and animal support
staff to actually work on the often idiosyncratic and no-
repeating issues that pop up during the maintenance and
research with the animals. But how does one go about
addressing all this on the long run?
Long term solution: build negative feedback loops (breaks)
e natural tendency is to try to address every possible
combination of factors/problems, develop more guide-
lines, checks and oversight, i.e. to increase bureaucracy.
Once a decision to include an “important” end point, a
“crucial” question about health monitoring, or the use of
an SOP (standard operating procedures) has been made
and added to the system, these requirements/points
remain in the system. Subsequent modifications almost
always include these added complexities, upon which
further additions are then based as the system “devel-
ops” towards increased complexity. Similarly, once a
regulatory position has been created, or once an admin-
istrative role has been deemed necessary and the posi-
tions are filled, they generate requirements for further
support staff, assistants, organizers and heads of organ-
izers. Furthermore, once these different arms of staff
members have been created, a bit of instinctive territo-
riality (human species-specific feature) may kick in: the
view of ‘them versus us’ may develop and thus created
abstract territories are defended. In sum, just like in bio-
logical evolution [19], it is much easier to add to exist-
ing system features than to remove from them. e above
exemplified tendency towards increasing complexity is
not unique to how our animal research related systems
evolve. It is typical of cultural evolution in general, and
can be seen in practically every aspect of our society: we
all expect growth, bigger and more. Can we reverse this
natural tendency?
e long-term solution is quite simple in principle, but
difficult in practice. We first consider the principle. Any
organism, organization, and for that matter all systems in
general, will go out of control without negative feedback
loops. Right now, the way regulatory aspects of animal
research are set up, the way regulatory experts, animal
Page 5 of 6
Tsangand Gerlai Laboratory Animal Research (2022) 38:19
support staff and research staff work with each other,
represent a system without feedback loops. e research
staff is dependent upon the animal support staff and is
also at the mercy of compliance officers and regulatory
staff. But these latter staff members do not depend on
research staff. e situation is akin to a car that only has
an accelerator, but no breaks. If the animal support staff
demands some action, the researcher has no choice but
to comply and do as told. If a regulatory agency decides
to bring new guidelines, animal support staff must imple-
ment them and make research staff comply. Informa-
tion, and resulting consequences (what we call direction
of causality), flows one way: regulatory agency to animal
support staff to research staff.
e worst example of what this can do, which frankly
devastated the zebrafish research landscape in Canada,
is how and why the Canadian Food Inspection Agency
decided to regulate importation of zebrafish to that coun-
try [20]. e practical solution to this unidirectional
information flow-causality principle is difficult, perhaps
even painful, and could only be accomplished on the
long-run: establishment of efficient negative feedback
loops in the system. Good will, proper communication,
common sense may not be enough. What could repre-
sent an efficient feedback loop?
First consider an example for an efficient feed-forward
loop, i.e., how research staff are compelled to comply.
is will illuminate what it would take to develop a break
in the system. When a non-compliance is detected, the
researcher in most research facilities is sent a message,
an automated or personalized warning about the non-
compliance issue. is message may explain that unless
the problem is remedied, the researcher’s animals will
be transferred and funding for his/her research will be
suspended. Such events, if they occur, may have seri-
ous consequences, as the researcher will not be able to
conduct his/her work, and lack of publications lead-
ing to lack of future grant funding obtained, reduction
in number of students etc., may all be factored into the
researcher’s annual performance evaluation. us, a non-
compliance related warning is serious and will motivate
the researcher to make sure the problem is addressed
fully and promptly. is is an efficient feed forward
mechanism. Feed forward in the sense that the informa-
tion flow goes the way we described above. What would
represent an efficient feed-back mechanism, reversal
of the direction of causality? Assume that the regula-
tory rule set by a Government Agency is incorrect, like
the requirements set by the Canadian Food Inspec-
tion Agency for the importation of zebrafish into Can-
ada. ese requirements, arguably, were based upon a
faulty interpretation of information published in a peer
reviewed journal, among other issues [21]. Plenty of
evidence was provided to the Agency, including scien-
tific evidence, along with numerous practical as well as
theoretical arguments against the Agency’s decision [20].
e Canadian zebrafish research community unani-
mously rejected the Agency’s decision for the debilitat-
ing importation requirements. Furthermore, numerous
University officials also contacted the Agency, asking
them to reverse their decision. However, the Agency did
not budge. Why? Because it had little to no incentive to
do so. Staff at the Agency were not dependent upon the
zebrafish research community, or how their decisions
are viewed by experts and University officials alike. eir
performance evaluation did not factor in the feedback.
eir salaries and livelihood remained unaffected. Simi-
lar issues abound at lower levels, at a smaller scale in the
system. Just as animal support staff and University rep-
resentatives could not effectively persuade the Govern-
ment agency to change its decision, research staff also
often have a hard time influencing University adminis-
trators, Veterinarians or other animal support staff about
correcting erroneous rules/regulations decisions. e
long-term solution can only be proper incentivization
of all team members. In other words, performance of all
participants, including Government Agency employees,
University officials, animal support staff, and not just that
of research staff, must be made dependent on feedback.
Proper mechanisms for feedback from the lower to the
higher level, i.e., reversing the direction of information
flow (research staff to animal support staff to regulatory
agency) and having measurable consequence/effects of
the feedback provided should be established.
Short term solutions (months to few years). We need
to harness the good will and collegial nature of all par-
ticipants in animal research and facilitate communication
among research and animal support staff and regulatory
experts. We must promote education of research staff
about regulatory requirements as well as about the role
and daily activities and responsibilities of animal support
staff. We should encourage animal support staff to learn
about research conducted by research staff, ask animal
support staff to attend in house research presentations by
students and principal investigators, invite them to labo-
ratory meetings, departmental events, and overall involve
them in the research process as much as possible. We
should also encourage animal support staff, veterinarians
and University officials alike to be critical, and evaluate
the correct nature, of government or regulatory agen-
cies’ decisions about rules, regulations and guidelines.
We should insist on establishing mechanisms via which
feedback may be sent to the regulatory agencies involved.
Long term solutions (years to decades). We must attempt
Page 6 of 6
Tsangand Gerlai Laboratory Animal Research (2022) 38:19
to create an incentivization structure, mechanisms via
which the above short-term goals may be achieved. We
will need to think about both positive (reward) and nega-
tive (punishment) based incentives developed not only
for research staff but also for animal support staff and
administrators and decision makers at regulatory agen-
cies. We will need to establish mechanisms that would
not only facilitate but would mandate appropriate feed-
back, feedback that will represent backward flow of infor-
mation as well as meaningful effect, i.e. consequences, of
this information flow. We must achieve reversal of the
direction of causality and create a system where research
staff can evaluate the quality of work provided by animal
support staff and by Government agencies.
RG is supported by an NSERC Discovery Grant (#311637), an AALAS GLAS
Grant, and the University of Toronto Distinguished Professorship Award. RG
was member of the Local Animal Care Committee of the University of Toronto
Mississauga for a decade and chaired the Committee for eight years and
would like to thank all committee members for the invaluable discussions and
contributions to animal health and welfare. BT is a graduate student at the
University of Toronto and is supported by an AALAS GLAS Grant. BT was the
Animal Ethics Coordinator and Clinical Research Project Manager at the Hospi-
tal for Sick Children Research Institute and would like to thank the Animal Care
Committee and animal support staff for their insightful discussions on animal
wellness, health and compliance related issues.
Author contributions
BT and RG wrote the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final
Not applicable.
Availability of data and materials
Not applicable.
Ethics approval and consent to participate
No ethical approval or consent was required.
Competing interests
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Author details
1 Department of Psychology, University of Toronto Mississauga, Toronto,
Canada. 2 Department of Critical Care Medicine, Hospital for Sick Children,
Toronto, Canada. 3 Department of Cell and Systems Biology, University
of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.
Received: 8 April 2022 Accepted: 21 June 2022
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The number of zebrafish facilities steadily increases across the Globe. This chapter focusses on a fundamentally important aspect of zebrafish research: how to breed and raise zebrafish. It discusses practical aspects of these questions but also deals with conceptual issues, including whether in establishing zebrafish breeding and rearing methods we should learn from nature, and whether we should standardize our methods. The chapter discusses what we regard as optimal maintenance conditions, e.g. how to prepare adult parental fish for spawning, set up spawning/breeding tanks, how to handle the eggs and rear the young juveniles of zebrafish. The description of methods and maintenance factors includes water chemistry, temperature, filtration, food and feeding methods, among other aspects of breeding and larviculture of the zebrafish. The chapter ends with a short discussion about reproducibility and replicability in research and a note on how zebrafish breeding and larviculture may influence both.
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In recent years, there has been an increased recognition of the potential cost of caring on the mental well-being of research animal facility personnel. While this issue is considered a normal consequence of caring for others, these stressors must be acknowledged and managed to ensure that the workplace culture remains positive and that employees are engaged. Factors that can contribute to these feelings in those working with animals in research include compassion and moral stress, issues related to staffing and scheduling of work, insufficient communication in the workplace, and public ambivalence toward the use of animals in science. The first step in developing a program is to survey facility personnel about their concerns, either formally (e.g., using a needs analysis) or informally. Two examples are provided to demonstrate different institutional approaches to assessing personnel needs and developing an internal compassion-resiliency program. The best programs are based on the needs and wants of personnel and these can be cost effective and geared at a grassroots level. Social support in the workplace, for example, through peer counseling, can be a highly effective means of helping personnel to build compassion-resiliency. Addressing mental well-being of research animal facility personnel is an important component of ensuring a positive culture of care in the workplace.
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Laboratory animal personnel may experience significant stress from working with animals in scientific research. Workplace stress can be assessed by evaluating professional quality of life, which is comprised of compassion fatigue (i.e., burnout and secondary traumatic stress) and compassion satisfaction. This research aimed to explore the associations between risk factors and professional quality of life in laboratory animal personnel. In a cross-sectional, convenience sample design, laboratory animal personnel were recruited from widespread online promotion. A total of 801 personnel in the United States or Canada completed an online survey regarding professional quality of life, social support, euthanasia, enrichment, stress/pain levels, and human-animal interactions. Participants worked in a wide range of settings (e.g., industry, academia), research types (e.g., basic, applied, regulatory), species (e.g., non-human primates, mice), and roles (e.g., animal caretaker, veterinarian). Data were analyzed using general linear models. Personnel who reported higher compassion fatigue also reported lower social support, higher animal stress/pain, higher desire to implement more enrichment, and less control over performing euthanasia (p's < 0.05). Higher burnout was associated with less diverse/frequent enrichment, using physical euthanasia methods, and longer working hours. Higher secondary traumatic stress was associated with more relationship-promoting human-animal interactions (e.g., naming animals) and working as a trainers (p's < 0.05). Higher compassion satisfaction was associated with higher social support, less animal stress/pain, and more human-animal interactions (p's < 0.05). Surprisingly, neither personnel's primary animal type (e.g., non-human primates, mice) nor frequency of euthanasia (e.g., daily, monthly) were associated with professional quality of life (p's > 0.05). Our findings show that the professional quality of life of laboratory animal personnel is associated with several factors. Personnel reporting poorer professional quality of life also reported less social support, higher animal stress/pain, less enrichment diversity/frequency and wished they could provide more enrichment, using physical euthanasia, and less control over performing euthanasia. Poorer professional quality of life was also seen in personnel working as trainers, at universities, and longer hours. This study contributes important empirical data that may provide guidance for developing interventions (e.g., improved social support, decreased animal stress, increased animal enrichment diversity/frequency, greater control over euthanasia) to improve laboratory animal personnel's professional quality of life.
Compassion fatigue (CF) is a topic of increasing concern because it can affect the mental wellbeing of caregivers, includingthose caring for or using research animals. If unaddressed, compassion fatigue may adversely impact the quality of life forpersonnel working with animals in research settings and may influence their decision to remain in the field. This study useda cross-sectional anonymous online questionnaire to 1) examine compassion fatigue in individuals working with research animals in Canada and the US; 2) better understand how personal and work-related factors may influence feelings of CF; 3) assess coping mechanisms used to deal with CF; and 4) determine the beneficial components of a CF support program. A questionnaire was sent to laboratory animal professionals in Canada and the US via email listserves to survey the general population of laboratory animal workers and personnel working for a large North American contract research organization (CRO). A total of 422 responses were received and analyzed (n = 154 from the general population, n = 268 from the CRO). Most participants were female (73%, 309/422); 66% (101/154) and 69% (184/268) of the general laboratory animal science respondents and the CRO respondents, respectively, reported experiencing feelings of CF. Survey participants indicated that the most influential work-related factors associated with feelings of CF were understaffing, close relationships with experimental animals, a lack of resources for coping with CF, poor relationships with superiors, and lack of training in managing CF. Respondents indicated that the most influential personal factors contributing to feelings of CF were poor mental and physical health. The most commonly reported beneficial coping mechanisms were talking to a trusted individual, getting away from work, practicing self-care strategies, increasing opportunities for physical activity, and owning or caring for companion animals.
The zebrafish is becoming increasingly well utilized in several fields of biology, including behavioral neuroscience. This review, based upon an Outstanding Achievement Award lecture presented by the author at an IBNS conference, explores the potential reasons for the popularity of this species. First, some theoretical questions are discussed, including why a comparative approach using more than a single laboratory animal species (the mouse) may be important. Points about evolutionary conservation are considered. Discussion on why complexity may build over time, and what it means when a species is considered “primitive” vs “advanced”, are also included. Arguments about how using a “primitive” species may work to the researcher’s advantage are made in the context of translational relevance. Most discussions center around a complex functional aspect of the brain, relational learning and memory, and use empirical examples from the author’s own laboratory. It is hoped that these examples will show how a simple vertebrate, like the zebrafish, may help the investigator address fundamental mechanistic questions about complex brain function and behavior.
The zebrafish is a premier laboratory model for developmental genetics and is used increasingly for ethology and behavioral neuroscience. A fuller appreciation of zebrafish behavior, and its underlying neurobiology, physiology, and genetics, demands an understanding of the species' ecology, past, and present. Studies of natural history are beginning to provide such context and reveal that zebrafish lives across diverse habitats, encompassing tremendous variation in temperature, water quality, altitude, and community composition. Integrating knowledge of biotic and abiotic environments with studies of behavior in the lab and field should provide new insights into the evolutionary origins and selective consequences of zebrafish behavioral phenotypes.
The popularity of zebrafish is exponentially increasing. Unlike in the past, the zebrafish now is a subject of investigation by scientists of practically every subfield of biology, including psychopharmacology and behavior genetics. Simply put, the zebrafish is no longer considered a simple egg-producing tube for efficient delivery of thousands of embryos to be studied only by developmental biologists. With the broadening interest, come numerous challenges. One of the most fundamental of which is how to maintain and breed zebrafish. Here we consider some questions of zebrafish maintenance and breeding, and provide a few examples of what we argue would be important issues where some change may be required. We emphasize that systematic parametric analyses of environmental factors are needed to optimize the laboratory environment for the zebrafish. Last, we argue that understanding the ecology and ethology of the zebrafish is important for establishing proper maintenance and breeding of this species.
Scientists say that increasingly rigorous licensing procedures have complicated research efforts—and in some cases, stopped experiments completely.