This month saw the publication in PLoS Biology  of the ARRIVE (Animal Research: Reporting In Vivo Experiments) guidelines – a checklist aimed at providing explicit and unequivocal instructions on reporting animal experiments. These guidelines represent a new degree of stringency in requirements, which Wiley-Blackwell fully endorses as a means of improving scientific reporting and ethical standards in animal research.
Although the ethical approval of animal research has been legally regulated in many countries for many years now, often with a specific and exacting system of ethical review and practical oversight of animal studies, to date there has not been a set of guidelines for reporting the details of such work.
The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), a UK government-funded body concerned with improving the quality of study design and reporting, recently undertook a survey of the standards of reporting of animal research in studies carried out between 1999 and 2005 . They found that 41% of the 271 randomly chosen research papers did not state the hypothesis or objective of the study and the number and types of the animals used. NC3Rs has used the results to construct the ARRIVE guidelines, based on the previous CONSORT guidelines  for reporting randomized controlled trials.
The checklist includes the following:
- Background and objectives: explain the experimental approach and rationale; and how the animal model being used can address the scientific objectives.
- Ethical statement: indicate the ethical review permissions, licenses, and national legislation or requirements of the institutional/local body that govern the study.
- Methods: give details of the study design (control groups, steps taken to minimize subjective bias); experimental procedures (drug formulation and dose, anesthetic and surgical procedures, equipment); experimental animals (species, strain, sex, developmental stage); housing and husbandry; sample size (total animals used, including sample size calculation used); and statistical methods used.
The time of writing a manuscript is not of course the point to be considering the issues raised in the ARRIVE guidelines. Refining experimental approaches to minimize pain and distress to the animals; reducing animal use based on sound ethical, scientific, and statistical principles; and maximizing the value to be gained from the study, are all best performed when planning and devising the project and designing experiments. Good science is best served if these principles are applied from the start of the study with good design, execution, and presentation of experiments.
However, communicating the results effectively to the scientific community is equally important. It is in everyone’s best interests that research papers report full details of all methods and materials used, to allow others to reproduce and validate the results obtained, and to enable systematic analyses and reviews of progress to be made, thereby furthering our knowledge.
This summer, Wiley-Blackwell will be publishing the guidelines concurrently in a number of key journals in physiology, pharmacology, and medicine as a way of maximizing the impact and outreach of the ARRIVE project and bringing the guidelines to the attention of the wider research community.
We will also look to incorporate the guidelines in instructions to authors, editors, and referees, encouraging adherence to them as part of the review process, as an important step forward in improving scientific reporting standards for animal research, and to elevate study quality in the journals we publish. We strongly encourage our authors and readers to consult the guidelines when designing their studies, and to follow them when writing up their results.
“I want to express again how grateful I am for Wiley-Blackwell’s support for, and endorsement of, the guidelines. This is the most positive and active way for us all to make a difference to the way bioscience is reported!” Carol Kilkenny, The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research, London, UK
 Kilkenny C, Browne WJ, Cuthill IC, Emerson M, Altman DG. Improving Bioscience Research Reporting: The ARRIVE Guidelines for Reporting Animal Research. PLoS Biol 2010; 8(6)
 Kilkenny C, Parsons N, Kadyszewski E, et al. Survey of the quality of experimental design, statistical analysis and reporting of research using animals. PLoS ONE 2009; 4(11)
 Begg C, Cho M, Eastwood S, et al. Improving the quality of reporting of randomized controlled trials: The CONSORT statement. JAMA 1996; 276, 637-639.