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A major exhibition of humane learning tools has been co-organised by InterNICHE at an important conference on alternatives.

The Multimedia Exhibition of Alternatives in Education and Training at the Eighth World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences (WC8; Montreal, August 2011) was a collaborative effort between InterNICHE and Animalearn, following the example of replacement-focused exhibitions organised by InterNICHE at previous World Congresses. It brought the resources of both organizations together, including an even wider range of alternatives from their libraries - the InterNICHE Alternatives Loan System and Animalearn’s The Science Bank.

The alternatives covered medicine, veterinary medicine and biology and were grouped according to discipline. These included anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, clinical skills and surgery. The main academic and training level was university and professional, with some alternatives suitable for high school students and teachers. At each station a range of software, models, mannekins and simulators were on display, available for trial, or demonstrated by the producers themselves. Volunteers fluent in English, French, Spanish and other languages guided visitors and gave demonstrations according to their own educational focus and experience.

The exhibition presented both established replacement tools and newly launched products. Among the highlights was SimuRat, the new combination of interactive mannekin and computer program simulating pharmacological experiments on rats, from Dr C Patil (India); the perfusion-based POP trainer for laparoscopic and other surgical procedures from Optimist (Austria); the Biopac Student Lab, a physiology self-experimentation apparatus from Biopac (USA); the Critical Care Jerry canine mannekin, with breath and heart sounds simulator, from Rescue Critters (USA); the canine ovario-hysterectomy trainer from Paws2Claws (USA); a range of medical training models and simulators from Limbs & Things (UK); new inanimate frog models for practical dissection, from VetEffects (USA); and a range of plastinated dissected animals.

The hands-on alternatives - particularly the surgery simulators - were very popular, and the exhibition had a sizeable clinical skills and surgery suite with three veterinary surgeons from InterNICHE available for demonstrations. Over 100 software alternatives from the above disciplines and several others were also presented. These included anatomy programs, both simulations of dissections and those that use technology such as QTVR, advanced animations and fly-throughs to go beyond dissection or its simulation to help in the visualisation of structure; physiology and pharmacology virtual laboratories, including but not limited to simulations of classical preparations; and virtual anaesthesia and critical care simulators.

Exemplary alternatives in clinical skills and internal medicine included the Glass Horse Equine Colic DVD from the University of Georgia (USA), and in anatomy the Virtual Canine Anatomy DVD from the University of Colorado (USA). Selected software alternatives and clips showing perfused cadavers for surgical training and virtual reality (VR) training devices were presented on a large monitor, and there was a discussion on haptic technology. Access to databases was provided at one station, with training in database search techniques offered. The exhibition provided access to the beta version of the new InterNICHE website and its updated databases of alternatives and academic studies.

The Multimedia Exhibition at WC8 had an even greater presence from experts and producers from across the world who were able to contribute to a rolling program of detailed demonstrations, and film recording of some demonstrations was made to make further use of the opportunities created by the event. A valuable opportunity was provided to a number of oral presenters to illustrate their talks about established and new alternatives with live demonstrations. The possibility to meet and network with producers and engage in discussion with experts on specific tools and on their implementation was appreciated by delegates. Some producers offered their new products for inclusion in the organizations’ libraries and on-line databases. A number of items were borrowed, wish lists inspired by the diversity and quality of the tools displayed were written, and invitations were extended to organise similar events at forthcoming conferences in other countries.

The Multimedia Exhibition gave a practical focus to the exploration of alternatives in education and training, making the issue more tangible; and provided a hub for discussion, networking and sharing of resources and experience. Future exhibitions can build on the success of that at WC8, extending it by providing more ‘live’ clinical skills and surgery training using simulated blood and organs, and ethically sourced animal and human cadavers; including a greater number of resources, including alternatives, available for donation and for sale; inviting corporate and academic producers to have stalls and bringing more VR input with the inclusion of surgical training platforms; and forging a closer relationship between the Multimedia and Industrial Exhibitions.

InterNICHE and Animalearn gratefully acknowledge the support of the Alternatives Research & Development Foundation (ARDF), the Dutch Society for Replacement of Animal Testing (Proefdiervrij) and the Swiss League Against Vivisection (LSCV).


Nick Jukes, InterNICHE

Laura Ducceschi, Animalearn


Download the exhibition brochure here


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