Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Survey of the quality of experimental design, statistical analysis and reporting of research using animals

By Carol Kilkenny, Nicholas R. Parsons, Ed Kadyszewski, Michael F. W. Festing, Innes C. Cuthill, Derek Fry, Jane Hutton and Douglas G. Altman


For scientific, ethical and economic reasons, experiments involving animals should be appropriately designed, correctly analysed and transparently reported. This increases the scientific validity of the results, and maximises the knowledge gained from each experiment. A minimum amount of relevant information must be included in scientific publications to ensure that the methods and results of a study can be reviewed, analysed and repeated. Omitting essential information can raise scientific and ethical concerns. We report the findings of a systematic survey of reporting, experimental design and statistical analysis in published biomedical research using laboratory animals. Medline and EMBASE were searched for studies reporting research on live rats, mice and non-human primates carried out in UK and US publicly funded research establishments. Detailed information was collected from 271 publications, about the objective or hypothesis of the study, the number, sex, age and/or weight of animals used, and experimental and statistical methods. Only 59% of the studies stated the hypothesis or objective of the study and the number and characteristics of the animals used. Appropriate and efficient experimental design is a critical component of high-quality science. Most of the papers surveyed did not use randomisation (87%) or blinding (86%), to reduce bias in animal selection and outcome assessment. Only 70% of the publications that used statistical methods described their methods and presented the results with a measure of error or variability. This survey has identified a number of issues that need to be addressed in order to improve experimental design and reporting in publications describing research using animals. Scientific publication is a powerful and important source of information; the authors of scientific publications therefore have a responsibility to describe their methods and results comprehensively, accurately and transparently, and peer reviewers and journal editors share the responsibility to ensure that published studies fulfil these criteria

Topics: Q1
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2000). Animal definition: a necessity for the validity of animal experiments? doi
  2. (1995). Assessment of statistical procedures used in papers in the Australian Veterinary Journal. doi
  3. (2003). Design of animal experiments.
  4. (2007). Effect size, confidence interval and statistical significance: A practical guide for biologists. doi
  5. (2003). Emergency medicine animal research: does use of randomisation and blinding affect the results? doi
  6. (2008). Evidence for the efficacy of NXY -059 in Experimental Focal Cerebral Ischemia is confounded by study quality. doi
  7. (2002). Guidelines for the design and statistical analysis of experiments using laboratory animals. doi
  8. (2009). How to Display Data.
  9. (2002). Practical aspects of experimental design in animal research. doi
  10. (1997). Reporting animal use in scientific papers. doi
  11. (2002). Sample size determination. doi
  12. (2005). Specification of laboratory animal use in scientific articles: Current low detail in the journal’s instructions for authors and some proposals. doi
  13. (2002). The design of animal experiments: Reducing the use of animals in research through better experimental design.
  14. (1972). The History of the Measurement of III health. doi
  15. (1959). The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique. London: Metheun. ;Available: books/humane_exp/het-toc#.
  16. (2002). Use of factorial designs to optimize animal experiments and reduce animal use. doi
  17. (1985). Working Committee for the Biological characterisation of laboratory animals/ GV-Solas doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.