The University of Iowa

Literature Search

The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) offers assistance to Principal Investigators for literature searches used to identify alternatives.

For studies involving USDA regulated species, under Section 2.31 of the Animal Welfare Act Regulations and USDA Policies, a Principal Investigator (PI) is required to provide a written narrative to determine if alternatives exist to procedures which may cause pain or distress in animals used for teaching or research.

Alternative narrative must address each of the 3 R's:
  • Refine (employ techniques that reduce pain and distress)
  • Reduce (minimize the number of animals used)
  • Replace (substitute animal with non-animal methods or lower organisms)

A search of appropriate database(s) of published studies is one way to evaluate whether alternatives to animal testing are available.

An Animal Alternatives Guide was developed by librarians at Hardin Library for the Health Sciences together with members of the University of Iowa IACUC to assist animal users with this federally mandated responsibility.

A step-by-step worksheet for performing a literature search for alternatives has been compiled by the USDA, and is available at the following link:


Note: There is no requirement that a literature search be conducted for research that does not involve USDA regulated species. The question is still present on the eIACUC form. If you opt not to do the literature search and answer NO, you will no longer be prompted to justify why you have not done the search. This change was made to better reflect actual regulatory requirements. Non-USDA regulated species includes birds, mice (mus) and, rats (rattus) bred for research, fish, amphibians, and reptiles.