SITE VISIT: Swapping Lab Rats for Test Tubes

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Science  14 May 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5417, pp. 1083
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5417.1083b

Looking for a way to test possibly irritating chemicals without dripping them into a rabbit's eyes? Need to teach undergraduates all about frog anatomy—without them ever touching a scalpel? Try Altweb, a site that bills itself as a “one-stop shop” for information on alternatives to animal testing.

Run by a team based at the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at Johns Hopkins University, the smartly designed site is a collaboration of several scientific, corporate, and charitable organizations. It offers a searchable, though somewhat slow, database containing thousands of reports and abstracts that may help researchers further the goals of “refinement, reduction, and replacement”—the motto of the alternatives movement. Other sections keep tabs on animal welfare regulations and meeting proceedings. Altweb's content has a slight U.S. slant, yet “there's a pretty decent [number] of foreign scientists coming through,” says site manager Benjamin Choi. The bulk of the visitors, he says, appear to be high school and college students interested in writing papers or organizing debates about vivisection.

Altweb serves as a springboard to other Web resources, such as the well-stocked Animal Welfare Information Center at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and NORINA, a Norwegian database of audiovisual alternatives to using animals in teaching. There are no links to animal rights' groups that support the abolition—rather than the gradual reduction—of animal testing. “If we don't believe a group or a Web site promotes the three R's, we won't link to them,” says Choi.

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