This is a translation of the original document in German. The translation is provided for information purposes only and has no legal bearing. Only the German document is legally binding.
The University of Zurich is a leading international institution in the area of life sciences. The knowledge gained in this area of rapid scientific progress is of great significance, both socially and economically. The importance of Zurich as a research center is also determined to a large extent by its ability to integrate results gained across various disciplines, ranging from findings at the molecular level to assessments of entire populations. Each research area has its own methods, which are being constantly developed in order to open up new avenues of research and explore new questions. Experiments on live animals are essential to many research areas within the life sciences.
The original University of Zurich Policy on Experimental Animal Research, which first entered into force upon approval by the Executive Board of the University on 3 October 2013, is based on the CRUS (Rectors’ Conference of the Swiss Universities) Policy for Animal Research1. The current policy (revised on 2 February 2021) was amended again following a consultation process and approved by the Executive Board of the University on 16 November 2021.
Strategic Principles on Research Involving Animals
UZH employees involved in animal research, as well as their line managers and management bodies, commit to the following strategic principles:
- They observe an ethical, respectful, responsible and professional treatment of animals in accordance with the latest findings, when working in Switzerland as well as abroad.
- They implement the legal provisions on animal welfare in an exemplary fashion2.
- They consistently adhere to the 3R principles: replace, reduce, refine3.
- They apply methods to optimize the reproducibility of the conducted research.
- The models and methods needed to achieve the research goal are chosen with a view to achieving greatest possible significance/validity.
- Employees stay up to date with the latest scientific findings through training and continuing education.
- Research involving animals is documented in a clear and comprehensive manner.
- The information/results/insights arising from research involving animals are published in full.
- Communication about research involving animals is open and transparent.
1 CRUS Policy for Animal Research
2 Animal Welfare Act (cf. footnote 3) as well as the "Ethical Principles and Guidelines for Experiments on Animals", Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences (2005).
3 The 3R principles (replace, reduce, refine) refers to a concept developed by William Russell & Rex Burch (Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, 1959). Today, the principles are internationally recognized and, in accordance with legislation on animal protection (e.g. Art. 137 AniWO), must be taken into account when designing experiments with animals.
Guidelines for Implementing the Strategic Principles on Research Involving Animals
- Employees carrying out tasks in the area of animal experimentation hold the professional qualifications and expertise required for their work.
- UZH calls for and promotes the education, complementary training and subject-specific continuing education of its employees, e.g. in cooperation with the UZH Institute of Laboratory Animal Science. An important goal is implementing the 3R principles, in particular the application of methods and measures that reduce stress or discomfort in animals and enhance their wellbeing before, during and after an experiment (refinement). UZH further supports the use of state-of-the-art approaches to experiment design for appropriate replicated animal experiments. These must be reproducible and of high scientific relevance to help limit the number of animal experiments (reduction) and replace experiments involving animals with alternative procedures (replacement).
- UZH supports researchers in the planning of animal experiments, in conjunction with the Office for Animal Welfare and 3R (animal welfare officers and experts in 3R and experiment design). The Office for Animal Welfare and 3R reports to the Vice President Research and acts independently of the researchers and heads of the animal facilities. UZH appoints a 3R expert to coordinate promotion of the 3R principles and to represent the University of Zurich at the Swiss 3R Competence Centre (3RCC)4.
- The animal welfare officers assist researchers in their interactions with supervisory and authorizing offices and help researchers to implement the legal and internal animal protection requirements5. They act as an intermediary to the authorities.
- The researchers use validated and accepted methods in their research wherever possible. They contribute to developing standardized, well-documented procedures (e.g. in the form of SOPs6) and apply them in their units. UZH supports the researchers in doing so.
- The animal welfare officers ensure, in line with the legislative requirements, that applications for animal experiments are complete and that they fully detail the information required to assess their indispensable extent as per Art. 137 of the Animal Welfare Ordinance. The specialists for 3R and experiment design assist by providing expertise in these areas.
- Experiments involving animals are planned according to scientific standards (e.g. PREPARE guidelines for planning animal research and testing7).
4 Swiss 3R Competence Center
5 Art. 129a AniWO (in German)
6 Standard operating procedures
7 PREPARE: guidelines for planning animal research and testing
- UZH provides animal facilities and research infrastructure that ensure professional housing, breeding and care of laboratory animals, while at the same time facilitating research that reflects the latest developments in technology and scholarly practice and that appropriately takes ethical considerations into account.
- The animal facility managers commit to complying with legal requirements and University standards not only for the housing, breeding, and care of laboratory animals but also for recording the phenotypic expression of genotypes. Together with the study directors, the researchers conducting the experiments, the Office for Animal Welfare and 3R, the veterinarians, and, where necessary, the authorities, the animal facility managers contribute to developing standardized, well-documented procedures. They share responsibility for implementing such procedures in their units, thus ensuring professional and humane treatment of the animals.
- The animal welfare officers oversee the correct implementation of measures prescribed both by law and by UZH, and may encourage the use of established 3R procedures or the development and validation of new ones as required on a case-by-case basis.
- In extraordinary situations (e.g. during crises), the animal welfare officers contribute towards finding solutions that adhere to the principles in this policy.
- In cases of violations of legal obligations or deviations from agreed protocols, the animal welfare officers are authorized, upon consultation with the study directors, to terminate the animal experiment concerned and to refer the matter to the Vice President Research. The Vice President Research may take further action as required and supports the head of the Office for Animal Welfare and 3R to resolve any conflicts that may arise.
- The heads of research groups are guided in their work by the relevant legislation and UZH guidelines as well as the recommendations of professional organizations for laboratory animal science and the latest findings in research and ethics. In doing so, they promote the key points of the Basel Declaration8.
- The heads of research groups who initiate and lead animal research and apply for research funding for their projects are responsible for ensuring the correct implementation of legal guidelines and internal directives within their respective research groups.
- The heads of research groups are responsible for carefully overseeing and documenting any potential stress or discomfort caused to the animals before, during and after every experiment, and for reducing it whenever possible via suitable measures. Deviations from standard housing, breeding and care practices are only undertaken in well-justified cases with the approval of the responsible authorities and only if these deviations are unavoidable in order to achieve the objectives of the experiment.
- The heads of research groups function as role models for their staff. They promote awareness of the issues associated with animal experimentation, and they support training and continuing education at all levels.
- All animal experiments and their results are recorded in writing in full and in a reproducible manner. UZH supports researchers in saving and storing these data in the long term9.
8 Basel Declaration
9 swissuniversities: Scientific integrity as a central pillar of academic values
Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences: Scientific integrity
Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences: Code of conduct for scientific integrity (2021)(Chapter 3.2, p. 15.)
ALLEA: The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (2017)
- The results of animal experiments are presented in the annual report of the animex-ch web application, including any references to publications and databases.
- Findings from animal experiments are published in accordance with ARRIVE guidelines10.
- The findings, including raw data, are published in accordance with
- the UZH Open Science Policy11,
- the international standards for animal experiments,
- the different experiment designs, and
- the specifications of the journals in which the research is published.
- Upon publication of results and data, research groups inform the Office for Animal Welfare and 3R immediately and provide the relevant access information.
Conducting Animal Research Abroad
UZH is committed to upholding high ethical principles for experiments involving animals, whether carried out in Switzerland or abroad.
This policy provides a framework for conducting research involving animals (as defined in Art. 112 AniWO12) carried out abroad by UZH researchers. Collaborations should not be restricted, provided that the ethical principles of the other institution are consistent with those of UZH.
While experiments involving animals carried out in Switzerland are assessed by the relevant cantonal commission on animal experimentation as well as by cantonal authorities, there is not always an equivalent evaluation and ethical assessment for animal research performed abroad. However, it is the view of UZH and other institutions in Switzerland that their researchers should not participate in animal research projects abroad if these projects were or could not be carried out for ethical reasons in Switzerland. UZH researchers planning and conducting research involving animals abroad are thus required to ensure that the principles of the present policy, the ethical principles applying in the country where the research is carried out as well as the Nagoya protocol13 are respected in the context of their project.
The researchers overseeing a project involving animals abroad must inform the Office for Animal Welfare and 3R about the planned project before starting their research.
UZH and its staff members present their position on research involving animals in an open dialogue with policymakers, law enforcement officials and the general public based on UZH’s communications concept on research involving animals (Kommunikationskonzept Forschung mit Tieren) and the position statement14 and core messages contained therein. UZH joins a nationally and internationally recognized transparency initiative for animal research.
Furthermore, UZH ensures that staff members are sensitized to the complexity of experimental animal research and are aware of the divergent societal perspectives on animal experimentation, thus promoting the formation of informed and differentiated opinions.