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3Rs missing: animal research without scientific value is unethical
  1. Daniel Strech1,2,
  2. Ulrich Dirnagl1,2,3
  1. 1QUEST Center for Transforming Biomedical Research, Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), Berlin, Germany
  2. 2Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  3. 3NeuroCure Clinical Research Center, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Daniel Strech; daniel.strech{at}


The current, widely established 3R framework for the ethical use of animals in research consists of three guiding principles, that is, Replacement, Reduction and Refinement, all aiming to safeguard the overarching ethical principle of animal welfare. However, animal welfare alone does not suffice to make animal research ethical if the research does not have sufficient scientific value. The scientific value of animal studies strongly decreases if they are not sufficiently robust, if their questions have already been sufficiently addressed or if the results are selectively reported. Against this background, we argue that three guiding principles are missing, that is, Robustness, Registration and Reporting, all of which aim to safeguard and increase the scientific value of animal research. To establish a new 6R framework, we need a multistakeholder discourse to conceptualise the specific requirements of robustness, registration and reporting and to clarify responsibilities, competencies and legislation for auditing 6R compliance.

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  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests DS is an associate editor and UD an editorial advisor, BMJ Open Science.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned, externally peer reviewed.

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