Making full use of all sources of information on alternative methods is a key part of preparing research projects in the life sciences using laboratory animals in compliance with the EU legislative requirements. A major challenge to locate relevant high quality information about a proposed field of scientific investigation is the exponential increase of scientific publications in the recent past. Over the last years the electronic resources, originally developed to offer a potential solution to this problem, have shown a similar proliferation. The question arises: how best to search information specifically on the 3Rs (replacement, reduction, refinement of animal use) in the World Wide Web that is heterogenic, constantly changing and growing?
The EURL ECVAM Search Guide (the Guide) provides examples of search procedures, user guidance and suggested search terms to facilitate the location of the desired information on 3Rs alternatives in addition to an inventory of relevant resources providing an answer to the question: What can I find where? A check list is moreover offered to allow searches in a systematic and structured way and to document them, key part of preparing any research project. The Guide is aimed at untrained database users and will be most relevant, for example, where comprehensive searches are required as part of authorisation processes for animal experiments and where regulatory requirements mandate the application of the 3Rs.
The Guide has been produced by the European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing (EURL ECVAM) of the European Commission Joint Research Centre. It has had the collaboration of specialists from the German Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR) and was assisted by an internationally composed project advisory board.
Free copies can be obtained from the EU Bookshop as PDF and e-Book.
The Search Guide on Facebook: EU Law and Publications.
Based on the experience gained during 10 years of operation of the DB-ALM offered to now over 5000 registered users on the Internet, the DB-ALM search interfaces have been entirely redesigned to offer more flexibility during data retrieval procedures. The so called "faceted navigation" is applied by combining the hierarchical structure based approach of the DB-ALM with direct search options in a more user friendly manner.
The new interface provides users with visible options for clarifying and refining queries. The user can combine text searches beginning with a classic keyword search narrowing the search results with a number of offered choices. Using this progressive incremental query construction, users will be able to formulate the equivalent of a sophisticated query by taking a series of small, simple steps.
The following options have been made available:
Online updating possibilities are in the process of through revision and implementation. Once finalised the interactive application will permit, in close collaboration with the responsible DB-ALM staff, to submit a new method description to DB-ALM and/or to update existing data sheet that is already online. The final aim is to enable an update for each DB-ALM data sector in a more rapid and user-friendly manner and to ensure the provision of information updated to the state-of-the-art.
The TSAR has been set up by the Joint Research Centre to track progress, in a transparent manner, from proposal of an alternative method for validation through to its final adoption by its inclusion into the regulatory framework (EU, OECD and related).
A first version is online since 2008. However, the TSAR is currently under entire revision. The future application will also include explanations for the decisions that have been made at every step of the progress and in case a final decision is negative, TSAR will clearly indicate the reason why. The ultimate aim is to cover every step of the process: submission, validation, peer-review, recommendations and regulatory acceptance including international standards.
The EURL ECVAM is collaborating with international validation centres or organisations within the framework of ICATM (International Cooperation on Alternative Testing Methods). The future TSAR will function as a consolidated dissemination platform regarding on going validation activities of all ICATM partners.
The Thesaurus project refers to a past activity and was undertaken by EURL ECVAM as a pilot study to contribute to the harmonisation and organisation of terms and synonyms used in the animal alternatives topic area for data retrieval procedures The project focused on the identification of terms most commonly used by scientists active in the field of animal alternatives and compare it with those commonly used by database producers for indexing purposes. A novel technological approach was applied. As a first step, a subset of 2,000 documents has been processed. The resulting terms (1,000 out of 115,150) have been systematically ordered into a hierarchical thesaurus structure. The main focus was on in vitro toxicology.
For this project, the DB-ALM has collaborated with, The Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments (FRAME, UK), the Centre for Documentation and Evaluation of Alternative Methods to Animal Experiments (ZEBET, BfR, D), and experts from the National Library of Medicine (NLM, USA).
The value of developing a thesaurus specifically on animal alternatives should first be explored and verified with the end-user before any further steps will be undertaken. Therefore, the EURL ECVAM Thesaurus has been made available as an open source list to promote end-user discussions. Please take the time to consult the lists and submit your comments connecting to the Thesaurus.
Internet address: https://ecvam-dbalm.jrc.ec.europa.eu/thesaurus