The Animal Research Nexus: Changing Constitutions of Science, Health and Welfare


  • Dr Robert Kirk

    University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Project summary

Animal research remains a controversial public issue. Engagement is too often orientated toward the resolution of a polarized for/against debate taking the form of linear provision of information from specialist to non-specialist. Our programme, which draws on humanities and social sciences approaches to understanding animal research, challenges polarization to create new dynamic cultures of communication. Alongside our academic research, we bring together the diverse stakeholder community, patient groups and publics, to work in partnership with arts and engagement professionals to co-create evolving activities and events which share the complexities and consequences of animal research. Our work is structured around two complementary pathways:

1. Everyday Interventions. Short, mobile, and material activities transported into existing spaces like festivals, museums, and classrooms, provide accessible engagement with animal research. Playful reflection and discussion is engendered through commonplace practices (e.g. games and crafting) to disrupt preconceptions about animal research, prompt conversations, and engage ethical issues. Familiar tactile activities allow animal research to be encountered as relatable 'everyday' work without high levels of knowledge.

2. Immersive experiences: Bespoke immersive theatre allows participants to enter the world of animal research as the decision makers in an unfolding narrative, guided by actors, to experience the challenges and choices that shape the practice of animal research. The interactive structure allows participant to explore, through group interaction and learning, how scientific and social concerns inform governance and practice of animal research without requiring the need for high level specialist knowledge or necessitating a universal for/against choice.