These consider some of the issues relating to the use of animals in biomedical research:
In general, no. The reporting of research findings should be complete and unbiased, i.e. it should include all the findings, not just those with positive results. Unfortunately however, there is evidence that some researchers select, from among all the analyses performed, only those with the best results. This practice can lead to the benefits of drugs that are tested on animals being overestimated (Tsilidis et al 2013).
Publication bias is a term that describes the phenomenon whereby studies are more likely to be published if they report positive findings. This means that negative findings – for example where an experimental drug has not been found to work in animals – tend not to be published. This is a significant issue in animal research (Korevaar et al 2011; Mueller et al 2014). The problem is that if only positive findings are published, the benefits of that body of research are overestimated, as has happened in the field of animal studies of stroke (Sena et al 2010). This means that overoptimistic conclusions are drawn about drugs that are tested in animals. However when these drugs are trialled in humans – possibly exposing those humans to harm – they ultimately fail, wasting considerable time and funds.
Another consequence of negative findings not being published is that other researchers may repeat the failed experiments because they were unaware of the results, meaning that more animals’ lives and funding are wasted.