Upcoming Contingency Plans for Research Animals

3Rs Humaine Resestch

A blog article by Ashlie Reker, Ph.D.

Now into our third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can all safely say that we are familiar with the impacts that such unforeseen disasters have on nearly every aspect of our lives. However, one consequence not often considered in emergency situations is the health and safety of laboratory animals.

As it was unclear how long lockdowns and social distancing would be in place, research labs all over the world were essentially forced to carry out mass culls. I vividly recall lining up next to my colleagues, the despondence evident on our faces at being appointed with such a callous task.

Although the pandemic is a unique case, acute disasters, such as hurricanes, tornados, floods, and fires are not uncommon and will increase in frequency as the effects of climate change become more apparent.

Thankfully, the ramifications of events such as these can be lessened with actionable plans that can mitigate animal suffering and loss, and consequently, the loss or disruption of critical research.

As a result of Hurricane Katrina, The United States Department of Agriculture-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (USDA-APHIS) began the process of requiring contingency plans for research facilities. Facilities will need to satisfy these requirements by July 5, 2022 to include:

  • Identify emergency situations that arise as a result of geographic location
  • Identify facility risks
  • Outline tasks specific to the emergency situation that ensure animal welfare and establish a chain of custody to establish who will be responsible for these tasks
  • Have a plan for response and recovery for materials, resources and training as required

Climb provides full situational awareness of the vivarium and ongoing experiments and projects. In the event of an emergency, staff will be able to quickly prioritize locations and animals at highest risk and execute the response and recovery plans.

Climb’s census functionality will document any discrepancies that occur as a result of the situation and allow staff and scientists to return to normal operations quickly. For animals needing care, Climb can assist in formulating treatment plans and documenting all relevant details that pertain to the animal’s welfare. RockStep Solutions recognizes the privilege and value of being able to conduct in vivo research and we look forward to supporting our customers in providing the highest quality of in vivo research management.

Learn more about the Contingency Plan Requirements:


RockStep’s in vivo management solution Climb helps in the event of an emergency to execute response and recovery plans. 

Take the video tour or request a demo!

The 3 R’s of Humane Animal Research

3Rs Humaine Resestch

Blog article by Ashlie Reker, Ph.D., Benjamin L. Wyman, M.A., and Austin Lanham.

The Principles of Humane Animal Experimentation, originally outlined in 1959 by Russell and Burch, laid the foundation for the basis of animal welfare in research that we still use today. One of the lasting impacts of their work was the creation of the 3 R’s- Reduction, Refinement, and Replacement (not to be confused with Reduce, Reuse, Recycle).

These principles serve to guide in vivo researchers to achieve the highest degree of animal welfare during the experimental process. With modern technology, we can attain the highest level of animal care without disrupting research projects.

One of the greatest challenges for researchers has historically been their ability, or lack thereof, to sufficiently document the health and experimental processes associated with an animal. The use of spreadsheets, notebooks, or even sticky notes to track clinical diagnoses, treatments, and tests, has cost valuable time as technicians scramble to record and later compile regulatory reports. This inefficiency can lead to unwanted animal welfare outcomes and places unnecessary stress on both animals and staff.

In vivo research management software, like Climb, can help improve animal and staff welfare by tracking, recording, and compiling the necessary information easily in one spot. However, to fully understand Climb’s capabilities, we need to understand what the 3 Rs are and how they function within in vivo research¹.

Reduction refers to strategies that reduce the number of animals used in an experiment and include:

  • Completing a power analysis to ascertain the smallest group size required to obtain statistically significant data
  • Performing multiple experiments simultaneously so the same control group can be used for all experiments
  • Designing experiments so animals serve as their own controls
  • Using newer instrumentation that improves precision and reduces animals needed per data point
  • Sharing tissues with other investigators at the completion of an experiment

Refinement refers to employing methods that reduce pain or distress in experimental animals and include:

  • Improving surgical techniques to reduce loss and recovery time
  • Modification of research procedures to be less invasive, painful, or stressful
  • Utilizing up-to-date anesthetics and analgesics that reduce complications, stress, and recovery time
  • Provide environmental enrichment

Replacement refers to replacing the experimental animals with non-animal techniques and include:

  • Use of cell culture or organoids
  • Use of bench assays to replace bioassays involving animals
  • Use of in silica computer modeling

 Climb can help your organization follow the 3 R’s by:

– Providing access to aggregated, searchable data- allowing scientists easy access to an archive of original and accurate historical data can prevent unnecessary experimental replication.

– Improving experimental reproducibility by providing detailed experimental protocols, study information, and data collection processes that can be easily accessed by collaborators or shared externally.

– Comprehensive mating and births management capabilities prevent over-breeding of strains.

– Complete colony management and census provides full situational awareness, ensuring animals are allocated to a research protocol as soon as possible instead of maturing out of acceptance criteria and being euthanized.

– Up-to-date animal monitoring across several communication platforms (including internal messaging, email, and SMS) allows for immediate response to animal welfare concerns and reduces unnecessary suffering.

– Auditing and electronic signatures help identify staff and processes that require additional training and method modification, respectively.

– Streamlining the process of compiling required information for regulatory reporting.

In vivo research is critical to the development of new therapeutics, but steps can be taken to reduce the burden placed on research animals. RockStep is committed to upholding the responsible use of animals in research and is proud to provide software that helps achieve that goal.

By facilitating adherence to the principles of Reduction, Refinement, and Replacement, Climb offers the peace of mind that you’re getting new therapeutics to market ethically. 

Learn how Climb can both improve animal welfare in your facility and help your team get more research done by taking the video tour or requesting a demo!


¹ “Alternatives and the “Three R’s – Replacement, Reduction, Refinement” ” https://www.purdue.edu/research/oevprp/regulatory-affairs/animal-research/guidelines-resources/alternatives-three-r.php

Is Technology Changing Our Attention?

A blog article by Ashlie Reker, Ph.D.

The demand on our attention seems to have drastically increased over the past decades. This is believed to be due, in part, to our “gain and sustain” culture with constant access to on-demand visual information like rapid-fire emails, brief snippets of entertainment on social media, and myriad messaging platforms all interspersed with flashy advertising.

Continue reading “Is Technology Changing Our Attention?”

LIMS vs ELN: What’s the Difference?

Screenshot of Animal Census Facet

A blog article by Ashlie Reker, Ph.D.

Every scientist is familiar with the frustration that comes with rummaging through lab notebooks and spreadsheets trying to locate experimental details and data for reporting, publishing, or collaborating.

Digitalization of your research is the way to go, but do you need a LIMS or an ELN? What really is the difference between those two types of research management software? 

Ashlie Reker, Ph.D. explains further.

Continue reading “LIMS vs ELN: What’s the Difference?”

Climb for Oncology Research

Screenshot of Animal Census Facet

A blog article by Austin Lanham

Discovery oncology research is unique in its variability. Between tumor lines, variable targets, in vivo strains, and different styles of treatment, it is almost impossible to package it up neatly. This can be a challenge when choosing research management software, but Climb 2.0’s adaptability and customization easily accommodates the intricacies of oncology research.

Continue reading “Climb for Oncology Research”