Lately, the Nottingham team have been reflecting on reflecting. With the AnNex programme in its final phases, we’re considering how we have approached the issue of animal research as different individuals in differing disciplines, brought together to explore the nexus of animal research.
Over three days in July 2022, colleagues from the UK and beyond gathered online to discuss the thorny question of veterinary expertise.
In our work on the cultures of care and communication in animal research, we often asked ourselves the question: why are fish not the ‘poster critters’ of animal research?
How does how you feel about fish shape how fish get to feel?
How does the introduction and spread of different species and sites transform practices of ethical review, the 3Rs, animal care, and public engagement? Is it true that fish feel less and people feel less about what they do feel? If so how can we start conversations around which the public are ambivalent?
Care is complicated and hard. To paraphrase social theorist Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, writing in 2011: it can feel good, it can do good, it can feel awful, it can oppress. Puig de la Bellacasa’s work was pioneering in drawing attention to how the complexities of care are entangled in ethics and politics, and formative in shaping both technoscience and different nature cultures.
Leading research organisations, such as the UK’s Wellcome Trust (2020), recognise there is a need to create a more care-full and supportive working environment in the UK research sector.
Talking about the history of animal research can be tricky: the subject remains divisive, and using images poses further challenges. Scientific photographs of procedures can be very upsetting; antivivisection materials, often designed to confront their readers, might prove even more difficult. Yet images are an important source of historical evidence, and have played key roles in communicating animal research to diverse audiences, and occasionally in seeding controversy.
In part 1 of this blog series, we introduced the idea of a ‘spectrum of visibility’ in animal research, with some animals – such as those whose lives are affected by research, but not research subjects – found towards the less visible end of the spectrum.
A lot of guidance has been written about how to actively involve patients and the public in clinical research, and evidence is growing about the value of this. But there’s very little that is specifically aimed at researchers who work mainly in a laboratory, with very little or no contact with people affected by the condition they are studying.