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Experimental design

Experimental Design

Experimental Design

Good planning and design can have a major impact on avoiding and reducing animal use in research programmes.

The primary aim in all research in line with the principles of the 3Rs is to avoid or replace the use of animals, whether this can be achieved completely or in any part of the research.  This should be approached by considering the aim of the research question and the data required to answer it. When conducting animals studies the justification often given is that researchers need to study effects of a drug, chemical or disease on a whole organism including multiple organs and body systems. However, if the research is broken down into what specific target cells are involved, and what evidence and data is needed, there may be opportunities to remove some, or all animal use from a programme of work.  All research studies that may potentially involve animal use should incorporate this into the early stages of their experimental design, prior to funding decisions or applications for animal research licenses.

To help researchers using animals in biomedical research, FRAME creates resources and advocates for training in how to search for, identify and implement non-animal approaches. Where researchers deem animal use may be unavoidable we have developed a flowchart for planning a programme of experiments. It outlines steps to follow during research involving animals, taking account of ethical and scientific considerations.  This flowchart poster has been designed to be displayed in laboratories and staff meeting areas.

Experimental Design Training

In 2023 FRAME launched a short online course providing an Introduction to Experiment Design in collaboration with the University of Nottingham. The Course is based on the historical work and resources of Dr Michael Festing and is freely available. It provides an introduction to experimental design for post graduate students or interested undergraduates, and is a useful refresher for early career researchers. It can be used as a full course or a tool to review different aspects of experimental design.


FRAME also runs an accredited Training School that provides training in experimental design and statistics and is held in collaboration with the University of Nottingham.


Thinking Differently

FRAME are currently in the process of producing more detailed resources to support the exploration of alternative, non-animal approaches in the first instance. This process of searching and questioning to aid the exploration of non-animal methods is key not only to researchers, but also those reviewing or regulating research such as University AWERB members, Home Office inspectors, funding review panels and journal editors. This may also help address bias towards animal methods where it exists.


Online Experimental Design Course

Are you a PhD student looking to improve your understanding of how to robustly apply the 3Rs? Are you an early career researcher looking to refresh your knowledge of experimental design? Try out this free online course developed by FRAME and the University of Nottingham.

Strategic Planning Poster

Good planning and design can have a major impact on avoiding and reducing animal usage in biomedical research. Experiments using animals do not normally occur in isolation, but form part of a bigger research programme. This chart outline steps to follow when planning research programmes to ensure animal use is avoided and replaced where possible, and that number of animals and overall severity is reduced when animals are still used.

PhD Training in Experimental Design

Quality experimental design training is important for all biomedical PhD students conducting research. Margarita Kalamara, a PhD student from the University of Dundee joined us for a three-month Professional Internship Placement in 2021, to investigate the current provision of experimental design training for Biosciences PhD students. She produced a report  at the end of her placement ‘A review of experimental design training provision for biosciences PhD students at UK universities’.


Good research practice explained


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