The Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes (the Code) requires the application of 'replacement', 'reduction' and 'refinement' (the 3Rs) at all stages of animal care and use. 

  • Replacement: methods that permit a given purpose of an activity or project to be achieved without the use of animals.
  • Reduction: methods for obtaining comparable levels of information from the use of fewer animals in scientific procedures or for obtaining more information from the same number of animals.
  • Refinement: methods that alleviate or minimise potential pain and distress, and enhance animal wellbeing.

The 3Rs underpin the requirements in the entire Code including the responsibilities of institutions, institutional animal ethics committees (AECs), investigators and animal carers.

The 3Rs are accepted internationally, and in Australia through adoption of the Code in state and territory legislation. 

NHMRC and the 3Rs

NHMRC does not fund research involving animals unless the work is: 

  • of high quality and significance as determined by NHMRC's peer review process 
  • ethically reviewed and approved by an institutional AEC before the work begins, and 
  • conducted in accordance with relevant legislation and the Code, which includes strict requirements for the application of the 3Rs. 

For institutions and researchers receiving NHMRC funds, NHMRC's expectations are that:

  • Institutions promote compliance with the Code with respect to the 3Rs, including the development and promotion of relevant policies and procedures and the provisions of training and resources, as outlined in the Code.
  • Researchers apply the principles of the 3Rs at all stages of animal care and use including planning, conducting and reviewing projects, as outlined in the Code.

The 3Rs Project

There is limited evidence about how the 3Rs are being implemented in Australia. To address this information gap, NHMRC is conducting the '3Rs Project'.  The intended outcome of this project is the development of an Information Paper providing up-to-date information about how the 3Rs are being implemented in Australia. This paper will be used to promote informed discussion of the issues and guide recommendations for improvement, if required. The 3Rs Project is being overseen  by NHMRC's Animal Welfare Committee.

The 3Rs Project commenced in May 2017. Progress to date includes:

  • completion of a literature review, and 
  • completion of a survey of investigators, AEC members and institutions (conducted from 28 February to 28 May 2018)

Related information:


For further information about the 3Rs Project, please contact