NPRCs Prioritize Openness to Ensure Access to Accurate Scientific Information
The National Primate Research Centers (NPRCs) are a national network of seven biomedical and behavioral research centers dedicated to improving human health by conducting and enabling studies that make breakthrough discoveries of causes, preventions, treatments and cures for conditions, disorders and diseases that affect human health. NPRC-based studies span multiple disciplines, including development & aging, genetics & genomics, infectious disease, neuroscience & brain disorders, and reproduction & endocrinology, and have led to numerous scientific advances, such as the development of COVID-19 vaccines and new medications to help organ transplant patients.
NPRC Outreach Initiatives Educate and Encourage
Outreach is a central mission of the NPRCs. Our efforts include internal, community and educational outreach to help our employees and the public fully understand the value of research with nonhuman primates (NHPs), as well as the regulations that govern such research and the expert animal care the NPRCs provide. Each NPRC dedicates significant time to educational initiatives. We appreciate the public interest in our research and animals, are proud to have NPRC openness initiatives recognized as an Exemplar for the U.S. Animal Research Openness Initiative (USARO) and hope our long-standing outreach programs are helping encourage others to share their research information and accomplishments.
NPRC Outreach is Varied and In Demand
Our proactive outreach includes in-person and online components. These range from participating in career days, science fairs and community speaking engagements, celebrating the annual Biomedical Research Awareness Day (BRAD) with local events, and offering hands-on science lessons to writing articles, blogs, fact sheets, news releases and tweets, working with journalists and extending our local outreach by posting on our two websites, NPRC.org and NPRCresearch.org.
While both websites provide information about research at the seven centers, NPRC.org focuses on raising awareness of biomedical and behavioral research and recent discoveries, and is designed for the general public – e.g., students, teachers, family, neighbors, friends, media and legislators. NPRCresearch.org is intended for the scientific community and details animal species, models and research expertise each NPRC offers, which helps non-NPRC researchers who are seeking animal models for their studies. NPRCresearch.org also includes a comprehensive list of NPRC peer-reviewed publications; these publications serve as the basis for news releases, blogs and other information key to educating the public about research with animals. In addition to these shared websites, each NPRC has its own online presence, such as center-specific websites, educational videos and social media accounts.
NPRC Program Began 60+ Years Ago
Via these and other communication channels, the information the NPRCs share begins with the history of the NPRC program, which dates back more than sixty years ago and involves support from National Institutes of Health (NIH) leaders. These visionaries foresaw the need for an NHP research colony to accelerate medical discoveries, including developing scientific models, establishing breeding colonies and providing specialized animal care expertise. Today, the NPRCs have achieved the initial intent, expanded areas of study and solidified our role as a national resource for scientific expertise and NHP models for human diseases.
NPRC Teamwork Leads to Success
The NPRCs offer unique environments and resources to NPRC-based scientists as well as NIH-funded scientists whose research depends on animal models not available at their home research institutions. Via the NPRC outreach program, we educate these external scientists about how NPRC-based scientists are available to collaborate with them to provide access to state-of-the-art technologies and facilitate research team connections. These connections include veterinarians and animal care, behavioral management and colony management personnel. Team members also include finance, grants and contracting specialists who assist with grant budgeting and documentation for scientific peer-review and regulatory approvals, which are critical for justifying the species and number of animals included in each study.
To maintain the NPRC designation, the NIH works with a panel of outside experts to conduct an extensive review of each NPRC every five years. During the renewal process, the panel assesses current scientific strengths and collaborations, and future plans and priorities. The NPRCs prioritize highlighting collaborative work to help people across generations and the world live longer, healthier lives within our renewal documentation and presentations to the review panel, and also share this information as part of our outreach.
Research with Animals is Highly Regulated
NPRC public education also includes information about research regulations and oversight by the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which conducts unannounced inspections at least annually, and each institution’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. All NPRCs are accredited by AAALAC International, a nonprofit organization that promotes the responsible treatment of animals in science. Maintaining AAALAC accreditation attests to each NPRC’s willingness to go above and beyond what laws require and recognizes the NPRCs’ exemplary records of animal care. We highlight this accreditation online and to the thousands of people who visit the NPRCs each year, view our social and breeding colonies of animals, and talk with researchers.
“The Council is pleased to inform you that the program conforms with AAALAC International standards as set forth by the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, NRC 2011. Therefore, FULL ACCREDITATION shall continue.”
3Rs of Research Important, but Animals are Still Invaluable to Scientific Discovery
Whether conducting outreach in-person or online, we also express NPRC support for the 3Rs – Replace, Reduce and Refine – and convey how scientists also rely on non-animal methods, such as laboratory work in cells and computer models that have been proven appropriate to answer scientific questions. The NPRCs caution, however, these models can’t fully replicate living systems. As scientific questions become more advanced and complex, NHP models may become even more critical because of similarities in human and primate anatomy, behaviors, genetics, immune systems, metabolism, nervous systems and physiology.
Collective Commitment to Outreach Continues to Grow
Continuing to explain the critical and, sometimes increasing, need for animals in research will always be part of the information the NPRCs share. We have a collective commitment to promoting NPRC research advances as frequently and far as possible, expanding our individual and collective outreach initiatives, and being a resource to other research centers that are beginning or expanding their outreach programs.
We believe our openness and that of others is critical to instilling confidence in scientific research and care of research animals, inspiring future generations of scientists and ensuring the public has accurate information about how research with animals is improving lives.