Outing Researchers

At a recent meeting I attended, I learned a scary piece of information that’s been on my mind. Yesterday’s post by Dr. J & Mrs. H regarding careless use of animals on protocols that may or may not be updated… brought this topic into the forefront for me again- although it’s been sorta lying in the back of my brain since I learned about it.

One thing that I am extreme stickler about is the proper care and treatment of laboratory animals. I bend as many rules as the next person in real life (yeah- so I drive a little fast from time to time), but on this one particular topic I never.ever.ever. bend the rules. Period. I diligently write my protocols, and wait for the proper approvals. If I want to make a change to a protocol or add an additional procedure I fill out the proper amendment and wait. My trainees know the rules, and we stick to the rules, period.

Why am I so rigid about this? Well, for one thing- it’s the right thing to do. I am a veterinarian- I know that although some people might say… it’s just a RODENT…. to me it’s a living creature that feels, doesn’t like pain… and has needs some of which I comprehend, and some of which I don’t.  It’s my responsibility to make sure that I use these models with respect for those things, and use as few as possible. But we’ve talked a lot about IACUCs, animal rights folks/their actions, and such previously.

Secondly- and here’s what is on my mind today- I recently learned that a colleague of mine has had their name and contact information prominently displayed on the website of an animal rights group.  While I will continue to do things with the rigor with which I do them because I know it’s the right way to do things… the idea of being targeted and having name and personal contact information outed on one of these sites scares the living daylights of out me. This makes me worry about my safety and security, and that of the trainees in my group, at work… but also at home…  The last thing I need or want is to have someone firebomb my house because they disagreed with the use of animals in my research.

So, my question to you all is- how do you protect yourselves from this? What measures should be taken at the level of the institution – because it’s their property as well that may suffer damage… and at the individual level to be aware of and track such threats?

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4 thoughts on “Outing Researchers

  1. actually it’s a really scary thing. i worked at a contract lab for a couple of years and recently found undercover video of some of my co-workers on an animal rights website.

    you’re 100% right. we have an obligation to give animals the best possible care if we’re going to use them as models. anything else is horribly wrong and dangerous for both the animals and for us later down the line.

  2. One of the things that worries me most about the outings on these websites is that many of these groups don’t really care how rigorous you are about protocols and paperwork, or even what kind of research you do. Many of them believe that no matter how you do it, animal research is wrong.

    I think the institution should step up and help researchers with security. Perhaps in addition to training on appropriate use and care of animals, there could be an additional unit on strategies on self protection and how to present your research in more palatable ways. Assuming this kind of information exists…

  3. Kristin- I worked in industry for a short time where we were advised never even to mention to anyone that there were animals on the premises. period.

    acmegirl- I’ve been troubled that I am not seeing a response from this colleague’s institution. Basic security on research buildings is a must, at the very minimum- training of personnel on how to protect yourself is also very important.

  4. My building has very serious security standards. We have double locked entry through which you need card access with a pin number and then a key. If doors are left open police come almost immediately. This keeps me feeling safe at work. Because we’re at a university everyone knows what goes on in there but they would really have a great deal of difficulty getting in. And if they did, everyone knows to immediately report people that don’t seem to belong. Since our whole floor is within the same dept its pretty easy to spot an intruder and we’ve called police on people on several occassions. It has never been anything other than someone looking for someone in our dept and all parties invovled understand that we’re just trying to keep everyone safe.

    In terms of at home, this sometimes concerns me. I do regularly check the internets to see if my info is posted somewhere. So far, nothing. Let’s hope it stays that way. My non-science friends largely don’t know what I do at work and most of them assume that I teach. I prefer to keep it that way.

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