The Society for Neuroscience (SfN), the world’s largest organization of scientists and physicians who study the brain and nervous system, has released a new document to help improve the protection of academic researchers, including, but not limited to, those who face intimidation, harassment, and physical attack by fringe anti-animal research extremists. The document, Best Practices for Protecting Researchers and Research: Recommendations for Universities and Institutions, provides a set of specific and proactive steps that organizations can take to protect their employees, while also advancing scientific knowledge and medical progress.
“Responsible biomedical research is essential to improve human health and save lives. Continued progress requires that institutions ensure the health and safety of researchers and their families,” said Eve Marder, PhD, President of SfN. “At a time when reasoned debate has turned into illegal harassment, trespass, and threat of violence, universities have an obligation to provide an appropriate and safe environment for their researchers. Today’s document provides practical security, communications, and advocacy steps that universities can take to protect their colleagues. SfN encourages researchers and institutions to partner actively to evaluate and implement these recommendations in their communities.”
Synthesizing lessons learned from other universities, researchers and organizations, Best Practices is a blueprint for action to:
- Provide public leadership and public commitment to researchers and the research enterprise;
- Develop and implement security protocols and relationships in advance of attacks; and
- Support policy and public communication solutions at the federal, state, and local levels.
Recently, the number of campaigns of harassment and intimidation directed at researchers has grown against those who use animals in research. Although they pursue crucial research and are required to operate within established regulatory and animal-care frameworks, these investigators face stalking, harassment, and physical assault on their homes. SfN members reported more attacks in the first six months of 2007 than in the five year period from 1999 to 2003.
“The continuing intimidation and threats of violence to which researchers have been subjected are beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and debate,” said Jeffrey Kordower, PhD, Chair of the SfN Committee on Animals in Research. “In recognition of that fact, the U.S. Congress passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act to prohibit such action, and we now urge universities to add their efforts to ensure that researchers have a safe environment in which to pursue their vital work.”
The responsible and humane use of animals in research has been an indispensable part of the health and medical revolution that is treating and curing crippling conditions that affect millions in North America and more around the globe. Disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, paralysis, addiction, and depression cause untold hardship for countless families and drain billions from economies annually. Moreover, it has been repeatedly shown that the American public supports the responsible use of animals to conduct research, and overwhelmingly rejects animal rights extremism.
The Society for Neuroscience, with more than 38,000 members, is the world's largest organization of basic scientists and clinicians working to advance understanding of the brain and nervous system. Their research advances fundamental scientific understanding and forms the basis for new treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders that affect millions of people worldwide. Neuroscience research also serves as a major national economic engine, spurring investment in biotechnology applications, pharmaceutical advancements, and health promotion.
Best Practices for Protecting Researchers and Research: Recommendations for Universities and Institutions can be found at http://www.sfn.org/animals.
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