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IACUC Alternatives Searching

A literature review for alternatives is a legally required component of a protocol classified as category D or E. This guide will walk you through structuring an effective literature review, selecting databases to use, and provide helpful tips in developi

IACUC Alternatives

IACUC Alternatives

When submitting an animal use protocol, one factor that can be somewhat confusing is the need to conduct an alternatives search.  The requirement specifies that pain categories D and E require a search to be documented in the protocol.  This guide will help to contextualize the requirement for an alternatives search, walk you through the steps of effective searching and lead you to knowledgable search experts (librarians) who can assist with structuring a search. 

The term 'alternatives' is used in this context to describe other methods of achieving similar research aims. There are three categories of 'alternatives' that were introduced by authors Russell and Burch in The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, initially published in 1959. These are commonly known among veterinary and animal research communities as the three Rs; replace, reduce, and refine. Please find brief definitions below.

Replace - use different methods such as an animal tissue culture or a model, that does not require a sentient animal.

Reduce - limit the number of animals used in the procedure(s).

Refine - lessen the stress and discomfort on the animal and promote wellbeing; this may include housing, analgesia, handling, or alternate lab techniques to name a few.


Why Search for Alternatives?

Alternative searches are taken very seriously by the Animal Care and Use Committee, Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, and AAALAC. Although you only need to report your literature review for category D and E procedures, it is expected that PIs are aware of and consider alternatives throughout protocol development and renewal. The alternatives reporting will verify to the IACUC that you have thoroughly examined currently available literature with the purpose of improving the welfare of the animal. 

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