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Alternatives to painful or distressful procedures

Searching for Alternatives

Federal policy requires that scientists conduct a search for alternatives for any procedure that causes more than momentary pain or distress. The use of the term "alternatives" in animal research has a unique meaning making it an inappropriate term to include as a keyword in literature searches.

Much information on useful alternatives can be found in databases and sources which appear quite distinct from those where the goals of the experiment would be found. Some useful sources include:

  • the National Library of Medicine's bibliographies of Alternatives to the Use of Live Animals in Biomedical Research and Testing (especially useful for toxicology)
  • the European Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods supports a website of alternatives databases.
  • the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives also publishes bibliographies and articles on alternative methods.
  • the Animal Welfare Information Center of the USDA manages a website that contains a great deal of information relating to alternatives including the development of searches and provides an example of a search. In addition the information center will assist investigators in developing a search strategy for alternatives and will, for a small fee, conduct the search.

For help with your literature search or additional databases contact the Animal Welfare Information Center at (301) 504-6212 or It is to the advantage of any scientist to consult the library information specialist for assistance in conducting the alternatives search.

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