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Lab Anim (NY). 2017 Mar 22;46(4):103-113. doi: 10.1038/laban.1224.

Introducing Therioepistemology: the study of how knowledge is gained from animal research.

Author information

1
Stanford University, Department of Comparative Medicine, Stanford, California, USA.
2
Stanford University (by courtesy) Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Stanford, California, USA.
3
Purdue University Animal Science Department, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA.
4
Department of Comparative Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.
5
Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Office of Animal Resources, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Abstract

This focus issue of Lab Animal coincides with a tipping point in biomedical research. For the first time, the scale of the reproducibility and translatability crisis is widely understood beyond the small cadre of researchers who have been studying it and the pharmaceutical and biotech companies who have been living it. Here we argue that an emerging literature, including the papers in this focus issue, has begun to congeal around a set of recurring themes, which themselves represent a paradigm shift. This paradigm shift can be characterized at the micro level as a shift from asking "what have we controlled for in this model?" to asking "what have we chosen to ignore in this model, and at what cost?" At the macro level, it is a shift from viewing animals as tools (the furry test tube), to viewing them as patients in an equivalent human medical study. We feel that we are witnessing the birth of a new discipline, which we term Therioepistemology, or the study of how knowledge is gained from animal research. In this paper, we outline six questions that serve as a heuristic for critically evaluating animal-based biomedical research from a therioepistemological perspective. These six questions sketch out the broad reaches of this new discipline, though they may change or be added to as this field evolves. Ultimately, by formalizing therioepistemology as a discipline, we can begin to discuss best practices that will improve the reproducibility and translatability of animal-based research, with concomitant benefits in terms of human health and animal well-being.

PMID:
28328885
DOI:
10.1038/laban.1224
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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