On February 6, 2008, the Society for Neuroscience published “Best Practices for Protecting Research and Researchers,” 1 in order to improve protection of academic researchers from intimidation, harassment, and physical attacks by anti-animal research extremists,2,3 This document recommends a specific actions that research institutions can take to protect their employees, while advancing scientific knowledge and medical progress.

A blueprint based on lessons learned from universities, researchers, and organizations, this Best Practices document suggests practical actions that universities may take to protect its researchers:

  • 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.

Best Practices for Protecting Researchers and Research–Excerpted Recommendations for Universities and Institutions

To support the vital progress of scientific research, as well as the health and economic well being of the university or institution, the nation, and the global science community, each university and research institution should adopt the following plan in order to pre-empt and react to anti-research activists:

1. Leadership and Administration
Provide regular, explicit public affirmation from the institutional leadership in support of academic freedom and state the institutional commitment to ensuring the protection of those individuals exercising it. The responsibility for protecting researchers under attack lies at the highest level of the executive and academic administration. The president or chancellor will demonstrate strong interest and leadership in cases of attack and communicate that leadership is personally responsible for the safety of the researchers.

In cases where researchers are under attack, pursue legal measures, public declarations, statements of support, provisions of accurate information to the public, and other forms of sustaining moral and psychological support. Successful implementation of these actions must start at the top of the institution; administration, security personnel, and public affairs and communications departments also have important roles to play.

When illegal activities occur, publicly support and encourage prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. Where appropriate and whenever possible, the administration and its counsel will pursue legal actions on behalf of the researcher, relieving them of the burden of seeking legal protection.

Request formal support from the academic senate or equivalent body. Such an entity should bring forward and vote on a resolution condemning the attempt to intimidate or use violence against any member of the university or institution who is appropriately engaged in research activity, and would be supplemented by an annual and explicit statement from administration endorsing the same principles. '

2. Security
Assign staff to monitor security efforts, deploy campus resources as necessary, and communicate with affected researchers. Ensure that these personnel are on call at all times and have the ability to easily communicate with top administration officials. The burden of designing and executing a security plan lies with the university or institution, not the researcher.

Develop a plan with local law enforcement. An effective, rapid, coordinated, and sustained response by local law enforcement will provide adequate physical security measures for targeted researchers on and off campus.

Develop a formal process for responding to threats against personal and physical safety. This process will be initiated, formulated, and communicated by upper level administration, and maintained by the appropriate staff.

Establish an organizational structure that anticipates and forestalls threats to a researcher. This will not require the investigator to initiate protective measures.

Establish or strengthen security protocols. Immediate response services will be created or extended to better support faculty who experience harassment at their home.

Ensure regular and effective communications between security personnel and community law enforcement to avoid gaps in protection. Researchers under personal attack should not be “outside of the jurisdiction” of law enforcement.

3. Public Affairs and Communications
Actively pursue the introduction and passage of federal, state, and local legislation and regulations that would protect research. Similarly, it is in the best interest of the scientific community that research institutions oppose federal, state and local legislative activity that would restrict responsible research.

Urge lawmakers to ensure consistency of protective coverage across jurisdictions. They will work to standardize laws enforced by state and local governments that protect researchers.

Proactively build relationships with reporters to convey accurate information about responsible research, as well as specific research being conducted at the facility. Communications staff will maintain a welcoming environment for media who can accurately portray animal research and its benefits.

Regularly examine student-university organizations, in keeping with standards of protected activity. They will ensure that such organizations are not using their university “sponsorship” to interact with potentially dangerous non-university organizations advocating violence, particularly those classified by law enforcement as domestic terrorist organizations.

On February 28, 2008, OLAW updated its frequently asked questions (FAQs) posted initially on its website on the care and use of laboratory animals—, and encouraged research institutions to review and use this site.

The new FAQs on are marked with “new” text to facilitate their review. The new FAQs are listed below:

IACUC Composition, Functions and Authority:
12. How does OLAW define nonscientific and nonaffiliated IACUC members?
Institutional Reporting to OLAW:
5. Are institutions required by FOIA to release information about their research, animal care programs, and IACUCs?
6.What are PHS requirements for recording and reporting minority views?
Protocol Review:
18. Is it acceptable to have different individuals named as PI on the grant application and the IACUC protocol?
Animal Use and Management:
11. Can IACUCs authorize the adoption of research animals as pets after the animals are no longer needed for study?
12.What are the institution’s responsibilities in ensuring that animals are shipped safely and in reporting adverse events that occur in shipment of animals to or from the institution?
Institutional Responsibilities:
9. How can institutions and their IACUCs best prepare for a pandemic?

On February 15, 2008, OLAW informed Public Health Service (PHS) grantee institutions about revisions to the sample Animal Welfare Assurance document (Assurance) they are required to submit.4 PHS-funded institutions that conduct research on live vertebrate animals must submit an acceptable Assurance to OLAW that they comply with the Public Health Service Policy on the Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (PHS Policy).5 Effective April 15, 2008:

  1. OLAW will no longer accept curriculum vitae of the veterinarian or IACUC members; descriptions of the institutional occupational health and safety program; and descriptions of the animal care and use training program, as attachments. Instead, these sections must be included in the body of the Assurance document. OLAW will continue to accept in attachment form the organizational chart of the animal care and use program; the list of IACUC members; and facility and species inventory forms.
  2. Institutions that are not accredited by the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC), must submit their semiannual inspection reports.
  3. Part III, Section E of the Assurance has been eliminated from the Assurance, because this requirement is completed as part of the electronic grant application.
  4. Institutions may submit their Assurances based on the new sample Assurance in PDF format to


  1. Best Practices for Protecting Researchers and Research: recommendations for Universities and Institutions. Society for Neuroscience.
  2. SfN Releases Best Practices for Protecting Researchers and Research. February 6, 2008.
  3. The Society for Neuroscience releases best practices for protecting researches & research. News Release NR-02-08. February 6, 2008.
  4. Update of Sample Animal Welfare Assurance. Notice Number: NOT-OD-08-049. Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), Office of Extramural Research. February 15, 2008.
  5. Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare. Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.


Veterinarian Moshe Shalev, MSc (Genetics), VMD, is a Diplomate of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine. A recognized expert in medicine, management, and facility designs of small, farm, and exotic laboratory animals, he publishes regularly on animal welfare regulations.