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The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations require principle investigators to consider alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress to the animals and provide a written narrative of the methods used and sources consulted to determine the availability of alternatives including refinements, reductions, and replacements.

Principle investigators must also provide written assurance that their research activities do not unnecessarily duplicate previous experiments.

A multiple database search is considered the most effective and efficient method for demonstrating compliance with the requirement to consider alternatives to painful/distressful procedures.

The narrative must, at a minimum include:

1.  The names of the databases searched.
2.  The date(s) the search was performed.
3.  The period covered by the search.
4.  The key words and/or the search strategy used.

[From the Animal Care Resource Guide, Policy #12.  United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.]

The National Institutes of Health Library lists the following "Red Flags" to an INADEQUATE database search:

  • Only 1 database searched.
  • Terms only for painful aspects.
  • The term "alternative" used alone with no other alternative terms.
  • Keywords listed not relevant to protocol.
  • Keywords and concepts linked in an incorrect manner.
  • Search doesn't cover adequate time period.


Searching the Literature for Animal Testing Alternatives

Excellent tutorial from UNC Health Sciences Library.

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Pepper: The Stolen Dog that Changed American Science by Daniel Engber

Excellent five-part series which examines the history and politics behind the Animal Welfare Act and asks us to look at how humane the laboratory animal business is today.

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Dying to Learn: Exposing the Supply and Use of Dogs and Cats in Higher Education

“Dying to Learn: Exposing the Supply and Use of Dogs and Cats in Higher Education” documents the hidden practices of colleges and universities in which unscrupulous Class B dealers, who obtain animals from shelters, sell former pets to education facilities, where these animals are used, and often killed, for dissection and live surgeries in teaching laboratories.

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Animal Welfare Information Center

The Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC) is mandated by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to provide information for improved animal care and use in research, testing, teaching, and exhibition. The Animal Welfare Information Center can assist you in performing the required literature search for research protocols.

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Animal Welfare - United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Annual Reports of Research Facilities, Inspection Reports, etc. available through the Freedom of Information Act.

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European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM)

Promotes the scientific and regulatory acceptance of non-animal tests which are of importance to biomedical sciences, through research, test development and validation and the establishment of a specialised database service.

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FRAME - Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments

Good site for general information on the Replacement of Animals in Experiments. Also has a very good section on literature searching techniques.

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UC Davis Center for Animal Alternatives Information

The UC Davis Center for Animal Alternatives places special emphasis on disseminating up-to-date information concerning animal alternatives through every level of public and private education. It also seeks to provide investigators who use animals with information on the most current methods for improving all aspects of animal care during their work.

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Altweb: Alternatives to Animal Testing

Altweb, the Alternatives to Animal Testing Web Site, was created to serve as a gateway to alternatives news, information, and resources on the Internet and beyond. Altweb now is the U.S. home of the journal ALTEX: Alternatives to Animal Experimentation, which is the official publication of the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT).

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Alternatives Research & Development Foundation

Source for Grants. The mission of the Alternatives Research and Development Foundation is to fund and promote the development, validation and adoption of non-animal methods in biomedical research, product testing and education.

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Institute for In Vitro Sciences (IIVS)

IIVS is a non-profit, science-based organization dedicated to the advancement of alternative testing methods. IIVS seeks to refine the science, broaden the use, and increase the acceptance of in vitro testing worldwide.

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Whole Brain Catalog

An open source, downloadable, multi-scale, virtual catalog of the mouse brain and its cellular constituents.

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Norina - A Norwegian Inventory of Alternatives

NORINA is an English-language database containing information on over 3,800 audiovisual aids that may be used as alternatives or supplements to the use of animals in teaching and training, including dissection alternatives, at all levels from junior school to University. The information in the database has been collected from 1991 until the present.

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InterNICHE - International Network for Humane Education

InterNICHE aims for a high quality, fully humane education in biological science, veterinary and human medicine. InterNICHE supports progressive science teaching and the replacement of animal experiments by working with teachers to introduce alternatives, and with students to support freedom of conscience.

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It's hard to perform ethical research on animals by Daniel Engber

"The hard part of this work isn't convincing an IACUC board to sanction the killing. It's making sure you've exhausted every possible alternative."

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European Chemicals Agency: How to Avoid Unncessary Testing on Animals

The guide explains alternative and non-test methods of assessing the properties of chemical substances in order to provide the information required by the REACH Regulation.

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Animalearn strives to eliminate the use of animals in education and is dedicated to assisting educators and students to find the most effective non-animal methods to teach and study science.

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Starting Points

The key parts of a literature search are: A) how you search  [forming a search strategy and choosing key words]  and  B) where you search  [which databases to use].

When you are ready to begin your search, click on the Articles and E-Resources link below.

Planning a Search: Search Terms and Strategies

A) How to Begin Your Search - Planning a Search and Choosing Search Terms [From the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments]

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Guide to Bibliographic Databases for Alternatives Searching

B) A guide to selecting Databases by Animal Model and Topic. [From the University of California Davis Center for Animal Alternatives Information]

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Some of these are licensed Databases, available to UNCW Faculty, Staff, Students (both on and off-campus), and also to Guests in the Library. If you are off-campus you will be asked to log-in. Some of these databases are available for free to the public.

ALTBIB: Bibliography on Alternatives to Animal Testing

This bibliography assists in identifying methods and procedures helpful in supporting the development, testing, application, and validation of alternatives to the use of vertebrates in biomedical research and toxicology testing.

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Citations to articles in the major agricultural journals worldwide.

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American Chemical Society Publications

Search for citations and abstracts, of chemistry and biochemistry, through journals from the American Chemical Society.

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Provides access to databases in the sciences, social sciences, philosophy and education.

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Oxford Journals

Collections cover Life Sciences, Mathematics & Physical Sciences, Medicine, Social Sciences, Humanities, Social Work, Sociology, English, Creative Writing, Criminology, and Law, and include some of the most authoritative journals in their fields.

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PsycARTICLES contains full-text, peer-reviewed scholarly and scientific articles in psychology from the American Psychological Association (APA). The database contains more than 164,000 articles from over 100 journals.

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This database is the American Psychological Association (APA)'s renowned resource for abstracts of scholarly journal articles, book chapters, books and dissertations. PsycINFO is the largest resource devoted to peer-reviewed literature in behavioral science and mental health, with ninety-nine percent of the covered material peer-reviewed.

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Developed by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), PubMed is the most comprehensive biomedical research database, and a key resource used by scientists. Please see the PubMed Overview Sheet.

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Sage Journals Online

Communication Studies, Criminology, Computer Science, Education, Health Sciences, Management & Organization Studies, Materials Science, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, Business, Humanities, Science and Technology, and Social Work. Includes Sage Journals Backfiles 1999-2009.

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Elsevier Journal collection covering the sciences, business, child development, computer science, clinical research, economics, history, hospitality, industrial technology, library and information science, physical education and health, psychology, social work, sociology, and tourism.

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SpringerLink offers online access to over 1400 fully peer reviewed journals and hundreds of ebooks in biomedicine, life science, clinical medicine, physics, engineering, mathematics, computer science, humanities, social work, sociology, and economics.

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TOXNET (TOXicology Data NETwork) is a cluster of databases covering toxicology, hazardous chemicals, environmental health and related areas.

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Health Services Research Projects in Progress (HSRProj)

HSRProj provides information about research-in-progress before results are available in a published format.

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