Meet PhD candidate Michael Brunt

Michael Brunt is a PhD Candidate with the Animal Welfare Program whose research addresses perceptions of transparency and how these influence the societal acceptance of animals used for research.  Before coming to the AWP at UBC, Michael worked as a research animal professional for 18 years, frequently encountering questions from friends and family about how animals were used and why.

This experience helped inform Michael’s PhD work investigating how transparency influences the acceptability of use animals for scientific research. Despite benefiting from research findings (e.g. via the development of new medical treatments), and funding the research itself (e.g. via the taxes we pay that support universities and granting agencies), citizens have few opportunities to learn about or influence how animals are used.

“One aim of my research is to understand how transparency, or lack thereof, influences the perceptions of various stakeholders. With this knowledge I hope to inform methods and policies to increase public involvement and access to information surrounding the use of animals in science.” said Michael about his hopes for the future direction of his research into institutional transparency.

In one study, recently recent work published in PLOS ONE, Michael and collaborators investigated the perceptions of laboratory animal facility managers regarding transparency in their institution. The results showed major differences in how these managers viewed transparency and the role it played in affecting how the institution and activities were perceived. Michael was invited to present his findings to professionals working in the field at the 2021 National Symposium of the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animal Science.

“I am hopeful that universities, regulators, and the public will recognize that sustained engagement with animal research facility managers, and more broadly all people working with animals, is needed to help ensure a more uniform institutional culture of transparency” said Michael. This research highlights the need for institutions to have a defined transparency policy regarding the use of animals in science, helping staff, researchers and graduate students that work with these animals to participate in discussions that improve transparency.

Michael received support for his research through the UBC Public Scholars Award, UBC’s Four Year Doctoral Fellowship, the SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships, and Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement. Stay tuned for more from Michael as he continues his PhD!

Check out more of Michael’s recent work here: