“3R” Literature Searching for IACUC Protocols

Melissa Ratajeski, MLIS, RLAT Reference Librarian and IACUC Liaison
Melissa Ratajeski
Reference Librarian and IACUC Liaison

Among its many areas of oversight, the University of Pittsburgh Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) ensures that researchers are compliant with the USDA Animal Welfare Act, including USDA Policy 12. This policy requires that investigators consider alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain, or distress to research animals.

The USDA considers the performance of database searches and analysis of articles as an effective method for demonstrating compliance with this requirement. Literature searches and corresponding narratives should address the following 3R’s as discussed by Russell and Burch in their classic publication, The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique:

  1. Reduction—Minimize the number of animals used, without jeopardizing statistical validity;
  2. Refinement—Employ techniques that reduce pain and distress;
  3. Replacement—Substitute animals with non-animal methods (i.e., computer simulation) or lower animal species.

Important points to remember:

  • Literature searches are required for IACUC protocols using warm-blooded species other than birds, mice of the genus Mus, and rats of the genus Rattus that are classified in the USDA Pain Classifications D or E;
  • Documentation of the searches must be provided to the IACUC including: databases utilized, date of the literature search, time period covered, and the keywords and/or search strategies used;
  • Records of searches should be maintained by the investigator, as they are reviewable by federal agencies;
  • Written narratives should convince the IACUC reviewers that a good faith effort to substantively address each of the 3R’s has been made and should be clearly based on the literature uncovered during the database searches rather than anecdotal information.

Suggested databases to use to complete an IACUC literature search include: PubMed, OVID Agricola, BIOSIS Previews, EMBASE, or Web of Science; all which can be accessed through the Health Sciences Library System. Sample literature searches can be found on the IACUC’s Policy Web page.

To schedule a consultation, or seek assistance on searching the literature for animal alternatives, contact Reference Librarian Melissa Ratajeski, MLIS, RLAT, at mar@pitt.edu or 412-648-1971.

~Melissa Ratajeski