DOD Animal Research:

Improvements Needed in Quality of Biomedical Research Database

NSIAD/HEHS-99-24: Published: Dec 14, 1998. Publicly Released: Jan 15, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined several issues related to the Department of Defense's (DOD) administration of its animal research programs, focusing on: (1) the extent to which DOD's research using animals addresses validated military objectives, does not unnecessarily duplicate work done elsewhere, and incorporates methods to reduce, replace, and refine the use of animals; and (2) problems with the accuracy of information in the Biomedical Research Database (BRD).

GAO noted that: (1) the BRD provides improved public access to information about DOD's use of animals in its research activities; (2) GAO found instances in which the information in the BRD was inaccurate, incomplete, and inconsistent, resulting in inadequate public disclosure; (3) specifically, the fiscal year 1996 BRD: (a) misstated the number of animal use projects because it omitted some projects that used animals and included others that did not involve animals; (b) did not include information, such as the numbers and types of animals used, that was identified in House Report 103-499; and (c) contained significant differences in specificity reported for the research projects; and (4) although GAO did not quantify the full extent of these problems, the problems it has identified suggest a need for DOD action to improve the accuracy and extent of the information in the database.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with the recommendations to improve the quality of information on animal use activities contained in the BRD. DOD has taken steps to improve its data collection and reporting procedures but believes that providing further detailed information on the number and species of animals and pain categories for each project would require extensive upgrading of the database software and hardware capacity. DOD implemented the following changes: training veterinarians associated with animal use approvals in the use of the BRD, requiring the reporting of information on animal use categories for each project, revising the format for reporting funding data on projects, and clarifying reporting instructions to include all projects that use animals in any phase.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should continue to take steps to improve the BRD. Specifically, the Secretary should improve the data collection and reporting procedures to ensure that the BRD contains accurate, detailed information about individual animal research projects, including information on the number and species of animals used in each project, the research goal and justification, and the pain categories for each project as identified in House Report 103-499.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation to improve public accountability and provide additional information on animal use categories in the BRD. DOD is also placing its annual report to Congress on animal use activities and the fiscal year 1999 BRD information on a publicly accessible website. The database can be queried for specific information about projects. DOD plans to include reports and data from subsequent years on the website.

    Recommendation: To improve public accountability, the Secretary of Defense should provide other information in the BRD, such as the appropriate animal use categories for each project, consistent with information reported in the DOD's annual reports to Congress, and ensure that the information contained in the BRD be presented in a uniform manner for all projects.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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