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Am J Primatol. 2016 Dec;78(12):1282-1303. doi: 10.1002/ajp.22582. Epub 2016 Jul 19.

Broader impacts: international implications and integrative ethical consideration of policy decisions about US chimpanzee research.

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Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin.
Science Directorate, American Psychological Association, Washington, District of Columbia.


Recent decisions and unprecedented evaluative processes about research with chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) continue to attract widespread attention by the public, media, and scientific community. Over the past 5 years, actions by the NIH and the United States Fish and Wildlife Services, have significantly truncated valuable scientific research and jeopardized future research. From a global perspective, the decisions have broad consequences for research aimed not only at human health, but also the conservation and welfare of other species. Full consideration of the role that research plays in improving animal welfare in captivity and in the wild, and the impact of the loss of access to chimpanzees for research, remains largely unexamined. At the same time, legal initiatives aimed at protecting chimpanzees by granting them "personhood" status have increasingly raised questions about equity in standards, oversight, and transparency for chimpanzees in other captive settings. Together, the decisions, subsequent actions, and public discussion put the growing need for a more integrative and global approach to decision-making about the future of captive chimpanzees into sharp relief. In this paper, we outline an expansive framework for ethical consideration to guide dialogue and decisions about animal research, welfare, and equitable treatment of nonhuman animals across settings. Regardless of the setting in which animals live, science plays an indispensable role in informing decisions about individual, species, societal, and environmental health. Thus, the scientific community and broader public need to engage in serious and thoughtful deliberations to weigh the harms and benefits of conducting (or failing to conduct) research that transcends geographic borders and that can guide responsible and informed decisions about the future of chimpanzees.


National Institutes of Health; animal welfare; biomedical research; conservation; research ethics

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