Intended for healthcare professionals


Improving the conduct, reporting, and appraisal of animal research

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 10 January 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:j4935
  1. Merel Ritskes-Hoitinga, professor,
  2. Kim Wever, researcher
  1. SYRCLE, Department for Health Evidence, Radboudumc, Nijmegen, Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to: M Ritskes-Hoitinga Merel.Ritskes-Hoitinga{at}

All stakeholders must act decisively to fix endemic problems

Preclinical animal studies aim to establish safety and efficacy before patients are exposed to new treatments. However, the translational success rate from animal studies to humans is quite low, and the non-reproducibility of preclinical studies ranges between 51% and 89%.1 The inadequate conduct, reporting, and evaluation of animal research underpinning human trials is one reason why big promises of better outcomes for patients so often remain unfulfilled.

Improvements in the design, registration, reporting, and transparency of animal studies are urgently needed. To achieve this, we need a cultural change in which researchers are rewarded for producing valid and reproducible results that are relevant to patients, and for doing justice to the animals being used. The MVA85A vaccine story (doi:10.1136/bmj.j5845),2 is an example of a case where a more thorough analysis of preceding animal studies could have resulted in better targeting of resources in human studies.23

What are the essential next steps to make animal research more fit for purpose as a valuable and reliable forerunner to clinical research in humans? Systematic reviews of animal …

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