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BSI Policy and Public Affairs: Representing the Voice of Immunologists

The Houses of Parliament

Avid readers of the BSI’s website may have noticed the publication of a new section: Policy and Public Affairs. This is where we will host our policy position statements on the pressing issues facing immunology and the wider scientific community. These documents are developed through the BSI Forum, a committee elected from a cross section of the membership with the aim of raising, discussing and developing our positions against the most salient topics facing immunologists today.

As the largest membership organisation for immunologists in Europe, the BSI is uniquely placed to inform political debate and policy development and to ensure the voice of immunology is heard by decision makers in Westminster and elsewhere. We do this by providing detailed briefings for parliamentarians ahead of important debates, through providing expert evidence to Select and other government Committees, and by responding to important public consultations.

Much of what is most pressing on the Government’s agenda – including immigration, decisions on budgets and spending, and the UK’s relationship with the European Union – are fundamentally important for the conduct of scientific research and clinical practice. It is only right therefore that the BSI has a voice in these debates and our new policy positions will act as a platform for our engagement with Westminster and other important stakeholders.

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Position statement on use of animals in research

We launch this new part of the website with the publication of a formal BSI position statement on the use of animals in scientific research.

This is an important topic and one that can polarise public opinion. Scientists are well aware of the positive arguments for using animals in research and the careful steps taken to preserve animal welfare. As you can read in our position statement, the BSI fully supports the responsible use of animals in scientific research. Animal models are an essential component of the research that delivers new life-saving medicines and their use in science has transformed both human and animal health.

We also firmly believe that any use of animals in scientific testing should adhere to the principles of the ‘3Rs’, meaning that where possible every effort has been made to replace the animal with an alternative, reduce the number of animals used to obtain the information, and refine the experiment so as to ease animal suffering as much as possible.

The scientific community can draw comfort from the fact that the latest opinion research commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills shows that the public largely support the use of animals in research. However, perhaps worryingly, this support has been gradually declining since the last decade, albeit by small amounts.

The research also shows that the more transparent scientists are with their use of animals during research, the more the public are likely to support it. This is one reason why the BSI is a signatory to the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research and we believe all immunologists should be open about their work to better promote public understanding about the realities of animal research.

This position statement is just the beginning of what we hope will be a suite of policy documents. Please take the time to visit this section of our website and stay tuned for updates on new documents in the future.

Chris Lowry, Public Affairs Manager, British Society for Immunology

Image credits: Houses of Parliament © British Society for Immunology, White mouse © Understanding Animal Research