Do non-human animals experience pain and suffering like we do? How much do we harm non-human animals when we use them in biomedical and other research? What is the value those harms relative to human health outcomes? Are U.S. policies and legislation governing animal research scientifically, historically, and ethically coherent? KIE Senior Research Scholar Tom Beauchamp will play a major role in a project funded by the National Science Foundation to answer these and other questions pertaining to the ethical use of non-human animals in scientific research.
The project, which began in July 2011 and will extend through June 2013, brings together investigators from Georgetown University, The George Washington University, and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. KIE Faculty Affiliate John Gluck, Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico, will also work with Beauchamp on this $328,000 NSF grant-based effort. Scholars from multiple disciplines, including ethics, law, medicine, the sciences, and research, will come together to determine which theoretical questions most need to be answered in order to establish ethical animal research policies.
Beauchamp’s first task is to organize discussions with his fellow researchers aimed at identifying the basic ethical principles for the conduct of research involving non-human animals. As he did with the Belmont Report on proper treatment of human research subjects in 1979, Beauchamp will then take the lead on writing, editing, and publishing a volume that provides guidance for policymakers, institutional representatives, educators, investigators, and reviewers in the treatment of animals in scientific research. He will also build a core curriculum in animal research ethics based on this volume.
While the project’s investigators will hold their initial meeting at Georgetown this October, the Institute will be co-sponsoring an annual conference on the ethics of animal research and the legal, economic, and scientific challenges to developing more humane research practices. This multi-disciplinary conference aims to incorporate the perspectives of scientific researchers, medical professionals, ethicists, policymakers, and students, and it will bring the important work of Beauchamp and his co-investigators to the greater Georgetown community.