Searching for 3Rs: Strategy

The outlined strategy is a simplified version of the EURL ECVAM Search Guide, to which we refer for more detailed information.

All searches start by formulating a proper search question and (a combination of) keywords. It is smart to start with a specific question in a 3Rs environment by using a value-added database (such as EC-VAM, 3RsInfohub, Non-animal technology database, DB-ALM). Starting the search in a 3Rs context helps to structure the search and provides a good start. After this step, the search can be extended to more broad-coverage databases with the use of some limitations or specific keywords, such as the MeSH term ‘animal use alternatives’ in PubMed. If you want to know more about the use of MeSH terms, use the different instructions and tutorial on the website of PubMed.

When searching in a database, a thesaurus can be helpful to identify relevant/correct key words and their spelling. PubMed has its own thesaurus, which can also be used separately in order to identify synonyms for key words. Like with all other literature searches, it is important to use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) and wild cards (?, *, “…”) in the correct way.

Searching for 3Rs methods takes time. The good news is that more initiatives are on their way. Modern, sometimes AI-based, search engines (like Re-Place and 3Ranker) are under development and are certainly worth testing. Last but not least: document what you do so that somebody else can repeat your search.