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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Summer 2000

URLs in this document have been updated. Links enclosed in {curly brackets} have been changed. If a replacement link was located, the new URL was added and the link is active; if a new site could not be identified, the broken link was removed.

Science and Technology Sources on the Internet

Animal Testing Alternatives: Online Resources

Elizabeth Choinski
Science Librarian
University of Mississippi Libraries

Research scientists who are using animals as test subjects are required by the Animal Welfare Act (7 USC 2131-2156) to consider alternatives to animal testing prior to beginning a research project. These investigators are required to search the literature for alternatives and to supply their findings to their Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). If no alternatives are available, investigators must supply to their IACUC a written description of their search history and databases used to look for alternatives. The Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC) of the National Agriculture Library provides in-depth information, in a question and answer format, concerning why literature searches must be conducted for animal testing alternatives and provides definitions of alternatives (Kreger 1998).

When the Animal Welfare Act took effect, literature searches were primarily accomplished using paper indexes or by employing the services of an information professional who could do mediated searches using databases from DIALOG, BRS, or other dial-up search services. Shevell and James (1995) discuss the role of the information specialist in terms of providing mediated searches. They stress the particulars of an effective reference interview with the investigator. They provide a detailed discussion of search methods and strategies available to the information specialist. Likewise, AWIC provides tips for doing a literature search that emphasizes communication between the information specialist and the investigator as well as the search strategies that are likely to be useful when searching CD-ROM based databases (Smith 1994). Snow provides very specific examples of searching Biosis Previews, Medline, EMBASE, and other databases via a dial-up connection to DIALOG (1990).

With the advent of web-based bibliographic databases and web sites full of information, the roles of the research scientist and librarian have changed. Many scientists do their own searching now. Instead of providing search services, librarians may be called upon to educate end users in navigating web-based sources of information. Librarians may even be called upon to help investigators with regulatory compliance concerning their search for animal testing alternatives. Based on personal experience with scientists in an academic research environment, investigators are usually not too interested in the policy-making or political aspects of animal rights when they are trying to get their grant proposals finished for a deadline. They are interested in finding literature specific to their research topic. This article focuses on bibliographic databases and web sites that provide information on the scientific aspects of animal testing alternatives and not on the pros and cons of animal rights.

Bibliographic Databases

The following is a sampling of databases that may be useful for searching for alternatives depending on the research topic. The selection is not comprehensive but provides examples of the kinds of bibliographic databases available across a wide array of disciplines. Some other databases that could be considered, depending on local availability, include EMBASE, CAB Abstracts, Life Sciences, Current Contents, Science Citation Index, CancerLit and TOXLINE.

Covering 1970 to the present, AGRICOLA is freely available from the National Agriculture Library or as a subscription database. "Contains bibliographic information on animal care and welfare topics for laboratory animals, zoo animals, and livestock including: animal care and handling, humane treatment, animal rights, alternatives to animal testing, and laws and regulations" (Clingerman et al. n.d.) Because of the broad scope of the database, it is an excellent source of toxicology information especially pertaining to agricultural chemicals. Since 1987, AGRICOLA has used the CAB Thesaurus for applying descriptors to journal articles.

BIOSIS Previews - {}
Providing the most comprehensive coverage of the biological literature, with over 5,000 indexed titles, this subscription database is essential to the researcher working with animals. Use the concept codes field to retrieve two broad subject areas: testing and nonanimal. BIOSIS can also be searched by CAS registry numbers for information on specific chemicals.

Known as the comprehensive database for physics, computing, and electrical engineering, INSPEC may seem like an odd choice to include when searching for animal testing alternatives. But it is an excellent place to look for applications of artificial intelligence, robotics, computer simulation, neural networks, and cellular biophysics to studies that normally use animal models. INSPEC is only available by subscription.

International Pharmaceutical Abstracts (IPA) - {{}}
IPA provides information on the development and use of drugs and on the profession of pharmaceutical practice. The scope of the database includes clinical, practical, theoretical, economic, and scientific aspects of the literature. Information on the testing of drugs and cosmetics in animals is available. IPA is a subscription database.

MathSciNet -
Another seemingly unusual choice for a search on animal testing alternatives, MathSciNet provides incomparable access to experimental design techniques that may be used to reduce the number of animals necessary for testing. For good precision and recall, it is best to search for design alternatives using the Classification Codes applied by the database producers. It is available by subscription from the American Mathematical Society.

The first choice among medical researchers, MEDLINE provides comprehensive coverage of the medical research literature including testing done on animals. Provided by the National Library of Medicine, the database is available free on the web as PubMed and as Internet Grateful Med or as a subscription database. It is recommended that MeSH be consulted for controlled vocabulary access.

PsycINFO -
Medical and pharmaceutical researchers are not the only investigators that use live animals in their studies. Psychological research often involves the use of animals for studies on behavior, brain development, cognition, and other areas of research. PsycINFO provides indexing to approximately 1,300 journals, reports, various books and chapters, and U.S. dissertations (taken from Dissertation Abstracts). Controlled vocabulary comes from the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms. The thesaurus and the database are produced by the American Psychological Association. PsycINFO is a subscription database.

SciFinder Scholar - {}
Often, testing done on animals means testing of chemicals on animals; chemicals can be drugs, agrochemicals, cosmetic ingredients, industrial solvents or any of a number of classes of chemicals. SciFinder Scholar provides access to Chemical Abstracts as a subscription database. Animal testing of the effects of chemicals is a part of the chemical literature and can be found using SciFinder Scholar. Chemicals can be searched by name, structure, CAS registry number, and molecular formula. The database is produced by the American Chemical Society.

Web Sites

Academic Libraries

The following three academic libraries provide excellent tutorials for their end users on how to search the literature for animal testing alternatives. Information specialists who are developing web-based tutorials at their own institutions would do well to study the format and content of these sites.

University of California Center for Animal Alternatives -

Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, Yale University - {}

Edward G. Miner Library, University of Rochester Medical Center - {}

Meta Sites

Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee -
Produced by AALAS, the site is an information resource for members and staffs of institutional animal care and use committees. Web sites are organized for IACUC member purposes and include areas such as institutional guidelines, online journals, organizations, and regulatory watch.

Lab Animal - {}
Lab Animal is a peer-reviewed journal for scientists performing animal research. The full contents of the journal are only available in paper. A search engine allows keyword and citation searching of titles and abstracts of all issues of the journal. Its greatest value may be in the numerous links to other online sources, arranged by general subject area.

Medicina Veterinaria - {}
A huge list of veterinary related web sites including animal welfare and testing related sites from around the world.

Government Information

Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC) - {}
AWIC, produced by the National Agriculture Library, is the major federal government source for information on animal care, testing, and general welfare. AWIC provides information on proper care and use of laboratory animals, alternatives to animal testing in research and education, training materials for laboratory animal personnel and investigators using animals, improved and refined research methodologies, animal care and use committees, and other areas pertinent to animal welfare.

Alternatives to Animal Testing Bibliographies - {}
The bibliographies are produced by the NLM's Special Information Services. "The focus of the bibliography is to assist in identifying methods and procedures helpful in supporting the development, testing, application, and validation of alternatives to the use of vertebrates in biomedical research and toxicology testing. Relevant citations in the bibliography are organized by subject and include abstracts if available." Currently, the bibliographies cover 1992-1999; they were produced from searches performed in MEDLARS databases.

Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare -
This office of the NIH oversees regulatory compliance relative to Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals involved in research conducted or supported by any component of the Public Health Service.

General Information

Alternatives to Skin Irritation Testing in Animals -
A non-profit web site developed by Dr. Jane Huggins, the site contains a bibliography of over 300 scientific articles pertaining to alternatives to skin testing in animals.

Altweb: Alternatives to Animal Testing - {}
Altweb's primary goal is to help scientists in academia, industry and government locate scientifically accurate information about new methods, research and resources. Here you can find out the latest in research, technology, grants, corporate-scientific collaborations, government rulings, seminars, databases, educational resources, and issues and debates in the alternatives community. Johns Hopkins University hosts the site.

American Association for Laboratory Animal Science -
Provides a forum for the exchange of information and expertise in the care and use of laboratory animals.

Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International -
AAALAC International accredits animal care and use programs throughout the world. Descriptions of the accreditation process and accreditation applications are available.

FRAME: Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments - {}
FRAME is a charitable organization chartered in the UK that seeks to eventually eliminate all experimentation on animals. However, FRAME recognizes that the immediate and total abolition of all animal experiments is not possible at this time. They provide very in-depth definitions of alternatives, overview of search basics, search terms and search strategies, and a list of databases available on the Internet at no charge.

Guide to the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals - {}
An online publication of the National Research Council, the goal of this Guide is to promote the humane care of animals used in biomedical and behavioral research, teaching, and testing. The objective is to provide information that will enhance animal well being, the quality of biomedical research, and the advancement of biologic knowledge that is relevant to humans or animals.

Institute for In Vitro Sciences - {}
The non-profit Institute provides non-animal research and testing services, as well as sponsors workshops and training courses in in vitro methods, and creates a forum where Industry, Government and Animal Welfare proponents can meet to determine constructive programs that effectively reduce animal use.

Institute for Laboratory Animal Research - {}
A part of the National Academy of Sciences, the institute's mission is to develop and make available scientific and technical information on laboratory animals and other biological research resources to the scientific community, the federal government, and the public.

NORINA Database - {}
NORINA provides access to audiovisual alternatives to laboratory animals used in teaching. The database is searchable. It is housed at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science in Oslo.


Animal Welfare Act as Amended (7 USC, 2131-2156). [Online]. Available: {}. [May 16, 2000].

Clingerman, Karen J., Dowling, Carol, and Swanson, Janice C. n.d. Searching AGRICOLA for animal welfare. Search Tips Series : STS-03.

Kreger, Michael. 1998. Why conduct literature searches for alternatives? ASLAP Newsletter 1997, revised October 1998, 30(3):19-23. [Online]. Available: {}. [May 16, 2000].

Shevell, Judith L. and James, Mary Lou. 1995. Search for animal alternatives and the role of the information specialist. Contemporary Topics 34(3):65-68.

Smith, Cynthia P. 1994. AWIC tips for searching alternatives to animal research and testing. Lab Animal March 1994: 46-48.

Snow, Bonnie. 1990. Online searching for alternatives to animal testing. Online July 1990: 94-97.

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