Covering Research on Lab Animals: Challenges and Opportunities
C4) Covering Research on Lab Animals: Challenges and Opportunities
Biomedical research on lab animals is an increasingly contentious topic — and a tricky subject for the science journalists who cover it. The public is sharply divided over the ethics and merits of the research. Animal rights and welfare organizations are ramping up pressure to seek alternatives to animal testing. And unlike other hot-button research topics such as evolution and climate change, scientists themselves hold a diversity of opinions on the topic. In a 2011 Nature poll of biomedical researchers, 90 percent said they believe animal research is essential, but 33 percent said they had ethical concerns about the work. And 70 percent said the debate has become so polarized that nuanced arguments are difficult to make.
As a result, journalists covering research that involves animals face unique challenges. What level of detail should be used to describe animal testing? Are graphic images informative or inflammatory? What responsibility do journalists have to consider the safety of scientists? When is it appropriate to reach out to animal welfare groups? How can journalists control their biases about the research? And how are these issues handled differently around the world?
This session will explore these and other tough questions with insight from journalists who regularly cover the beat as well as offering perspective from scientists on the other side of this coverage.