Eggel, M., Würbel, H. 2021. Internal consistency and compatibility of the 3Rs and 3Vs principles for project evaluation of animal research. Laboratory Animals 55(3), 233-243.
Using animals for research raises ethical concerns that are addressed in project evaluation by weighing expected harm to animals against expected benefit to society. A harm–benefit analysis (HBA) relies on two preconditions: (a) the study protocol is scientifically suitable and (b) the use of (sentient) animals and harm imposed on them are necessary for achieving the study’s aims. The 3Rs (Replace, Reduce and Refine) provide a guiding principle for evaluating whether the use of animals, their number and the harm imposed on them are necessary. A similar guiding principle for evaluating whether a study protocol is scientifically suitable has recently been proposed: the 3Vs principle referring to the three main aspects of scientific validity in animal research (construct, internal and external validity). Here, we analyse the internal consistency and compatibility of these two principles, address conflicts within and between the 3Rs and 3Vs principles and discuss their implications for project evaluation. We show that a few conflicts and trade-offs exist, but that these can be resolved either by appropriate study designs or by ethical deliberation in the HBA. In combination, the 3Vs, 3Rs and the HBA thus offer a coherent framework for a logically structured evaluation procedure to decide about the legitimacy of animal research projects.