NAVS Humane Science Award
The National Anti-Vivisection Society, once unwelcome at the International Science and Engineering Fair, now gives out one of the largest “special” awards given by an individual organization at the annual international competition. In 2002, NAVS gave out three prizes, totaling $8,000, to three students whose projects fell within the judging criteria of the NAVS Humane Science Award. See Criteria.
NAVS requested permission to offer its humane science award in March 2001, and its proposal underwent rigorous scrutiny by Science Service, the administrator of the Intel ISEF. With encouragement from Intel Corporation, NAVS submitted its rules and guidelines for approval in October and received word in November 2001 that it would be permitted to offer this unique award.
The first humane science award was given in 2002, to a student who demonstrated a project that fulfilled the criteria of the NAVS award—conducting innovative research without harming animals. The project was one of approximately 1000 exhibited at the science fair, which attracts advanced science students from around the world.
Amid many fine projects, NAVS’ judges chose as its first winner a project that exemplified good science and an ability to develop research independently from the animal-based experimentation that has become a mainstay of many biomedical research projects. However, the entrenchment of old scientific methodology was illustrated throughout the fair.
Each year there have been earnest and intelligent students who have explained to the NAVS judges why it is necessary to use animals for research. The students, who generally do not know that they are speaking to representatives of an anti-vivisection organization, invariably go through the litany of how a research protocol is conducted, beginning with cell cultures and tissue, then moving on to live mice and rats, and eventually testing their theories/treatment on a larger variety of animals from pigs and dogs to monkeys. Why? Because this is the way research is conducted. No further reason is given. These students’ unquestioning adherence to long-established practices indicates that the decades old system that relies on the fallacy of an animal model is still being actively taught in the classroom and in laboratories around the country.
There are many ways to apply scientific inquiry to animals, through observation, non-stressful interactions, and through analysis of living conditions. NAVS was monitoring projects, good and bad, at Intel ISEF for many years before the Humane Science award was offered. Over the years there have been wonderful animal projects at Intel ISEF, but the very best are the ones that seek to improve the lives of the animals they study. Just as the best projects on human health issues use human tissue, cells, and DNA to advance our knowledge of the human condition.
NAVS looks forward each year to the new crop of science fair projects, eager to review and reward students who are looking at new technology to accomplish their scientific goals, instead of accepting the outdated and ineffective animal model for medical research. It is important to encourage the next generation of scientists to look for more effective—and humane—solutions to our very human problems. Click here to see a list of past recipients of the NAVS Humane Science Award.