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The Three Rs and Animal Use in Science


Welcome to the MOOC The Three Rs and Animal Use in Science

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The European Union is committed to replacing the use of animals in science, and we need young scientists to help us achieve that goal.

This real-world challenge is ideal for developing critical thinking skills, and giving context to your classes on ethics, biology, statistics, philosophy or civic studies. Finding alternatives to animal testing is not only about animal welfare; it is also the way develop the sustainable and ‘good’ science of the future.

Many medicinal and toxic compounds are tested on animals before they are declared safe for human use, animals are also used in basic and applied research. But this can be costly, it can cause suffering to animals, and the results do not always to translate successfully to humans. In this course you will explore the new technologies that could make scientific tests completely animal-free in the future.

You can explore the principles of the 3R's relating to animals used for scientific purposes. The 3R's stand for: Replacement; to replace animals with other methods, wherever possible. Reduction; to use fewer animals in research. Refinement; to minimise discomfort in lab animals through better housing, handling and pain relief. The MOOC will take you through these principles, and many examples on how to address them in the classroom. You will discover new ways to develop your students' critical thinking and debating skills, develop their data literacy, and enhance their understanding of science.

If you would like to help your students,

  • Discover a new STEM career
  • Explore scientific innovations for non-animal alternatives
  • Learn how to identify fake news, or bad science
  • Carry out research, collect data and draw graphs
  • Develop and improve debating skills

Then join us on the 3R's MOOC! The course will launch on the 13th of January. See you there!

Learning objectives

  • Learn about the different roles that animals play in the society, and where and how animals are being replaced by alternatives.
  • Learn about how animal testing has evolved in history and the different views on animals in science
  • Get to know the principles of the 3R's and the 3R's career profile; how the 3R's are applied and by who they are practiced
  • Learn how to make your students aware of new methods and scientific achievements that enable research without animal testing.
  • Become better at organising and leading classroom debates about animal welfare, animal testing or any other ethically complex topic.
  • Discover ways to hone the critical thinking skills of your students through data, science and media literacy activities


The course is open and will be most relevant for secondary school life sciences (biology) teachers. However, all secondary school teachers (other disciplines), as well as animal science/welfare stakeholders and policymakers are welcome to join the course.


  • Module 1: Animal welfare and science opens on 13/01/2020
  • Module 2: Human-based science opens on 20/01/2020
  • Module 3: Critical thinking opens on 27/01/2020
  • Module 4: Your own 3R’s learning scenario opens on 03/02/2020


The course will last 5.5 weeks with a workload of 4 hours per week. This includes a week for each module and the time to submit new learning scenarios by the participants and peer assessment.

In order to earn a course certificate, course participants need to complete all four modules, including the writing of a learning scenario and review the work of 3 other course participants.

Note to teachers from Portugal: You can get your successful participation in a European Schoolnet Academy course formally recognised as a valid continuous professional development, and thereby acquire the relevant number of training hours, by sending your certificate to the Conselho Científico e Pedagógico de Formação Contínua (CCPFC) at Rua do Forno, nº 30, 1º andar - apartado 2168, 4700 - 429 Braga, Portugal. For more information, please contact the CCPFC.

Course Staff

Antoine Selim Bilgin - course coordinator

Antoine Selim Bilgin is a Pedagogical and Research Officer at EUN, and coordinator of this MOOC. Antoine is a psychologist with master’s degrees in cognitive neuroscience and clinical psychology. As a 3R’s licensee, he has laboratory experience in animal research, as well as experience in teaching behavioural animal science, research methods and statistics at higher education. He has an interest in science education and science and statistics literacy.

Eleni Myrtsioti - course coordinator

Eleni Myrtsioti (Project Coordination and Pedagogy) is a Junior Project Officer in the Science Education Department of EUN. Eleni contributes to Scientix by coordinating the repository of resources, the online meeting room and the webinars, and is further involved in STEM School Label, Amgen Teach and STE(A)M-IT projects coordinating the network of Ambassador STEM Schools, the network of teacher ambassadors and work packages on behalf of EUN respectively.

Merel Ritskes-Hoitinga - course coordinator

Merel Ritskes-Hoitinga is Professor in Evidence-Based Laboratory (Animal) Science at the Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, and Honorary SKOU professor at Aarhus University, Denmark. She founded the 3R Research Center in 2006 and subsequently SYRCLE (Systematic Review Center for Laboratory Experimentation; in 2012. Systematic reviews support the implementation of the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement), lead to a more evidence-based choice of animal models and improved transparency in quality and translation of preclinical studies. She supervised the PhD by Judith van Luijk (2017) focussing on the implementation of the 3Rs and systematic reviews (

Judith van Luijk - course coordinator

Dr. Judith van Luijk has a background in animal sciences. She did her PhD on the added value of the systematic review methodology in animal-based research and in relation to the implementation of the 3Rs principles. Over the years, she has become involved in the development of various (inter)national training and education programs related to the systematic review methodology and 3Rs principles. In addition, she coaches researchers in conducting their own systematic reviews. She travels the world as one of the senior-trainers of SYRCLE.

Disclaimer and Copyright

This course has been funded by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre under a European Parliament Pilot Project. The course has been prepared by European Schoolnet, in collaboration with ECORYS and SYRCLE. The European Commission support for the production of this course does not constitute endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


Creative Commons License

All content on this course unless specified otherwise is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

  1. Course Code

  2. Classes Start

  3. Classes End

  4. Estimated Effort

    4 hours (22 in total)