General: use of the RE-Place database
When was RE-Place initiated?
The RE-Place project was originally launched by the Flemish government in 2017 to create a platform for alternative methods to animal testing. One year later, the Brussels Capital region joined this project. Moreover, the process to include the Walloon region as well is currently ongoing. RE-Place is coordinated by Sciensano (Dr. Birgit Mertens) and the VUB (Prof. Vera Rogiers).
What is RE-Place?
RE-Place is an independent, scientific project with the objective to stimulate the use and development of NAMs between different research groups and across disciplines in the life sciences in Belgium. The first and strategic step in achieving this objective is to create an up-to-date inventory of the available expertise and to make this knowledge more accessible to all stakeholders.
What are NAMs?
NAMs is the acronym for ‘New Approach Methodologies’. Different descriptions of the term NAMs are available, but currently there is not yet one harmonized definition. Overall, the term NAMs covers methods that avoid the direct use of living animals such as in vitro and ex vivo methods, in silico modelling, in chemico assays, in vivo models based on the use of lower organisms (such as C. elegans and D. melanogaster) and many other innovative animal-free techniques. They can be found in all different (research-) disciplines in basic and applied research, but also in regulatory testing. NAMs include thus new technologies (e.g. artificial intelligence, organ-on-a-chip and many more) as well as the typical, more conventional replacement methods (e.g. to measure straightforward endpoints in local toxicity such as eye and skin irritation) or methods that provide information on the underlying mechanisms of action.
Can a NAM replace an animal test?
In a limited number of cases, yes, but in most cases NAMs are not suited as one-on-one replacement methodologies for animal tests. Indeed, one NAM is generally not able to produce the same type and amount of data as collected in an animal test. Moreover, results obtained in NAMs are often human-based, and therefore, they might be more relevant for the human situation than the animal test. Consequently, NAMs are at present mainly used as a single step within a broader research strategy which combines NAMs with other NAMs, or sometimes even with animal testing to obtain the information needed.
Can the RE-Place database be used to stop animal testing?
At present, animal testing is still needed to answer complex research questions and is even legally required in most regulatory domains (e.g. to guarantee the safety of (new) consumer products). Only for cosmetics and their ingredients, and the development of tobacco products animal use is explicitly legally forbidden in the EU. However, a lot of new technologies are being developed which do not require the use of living animals, and/or are based on the use of human tissues and cells. RE-Place wants to bring these techniques in the spotlight. By focusing on the progress that has been made so far, and acknowledging the work of the experts that submitted their expertise to the RE-Place database, the RE-Place project aims, on the long term, to contribute to the ultimate replacement of laboratory animals.
How can I contribute to this project?
You can submit information on all NAMs for which you have experience, if you are working in Belgium, or have collaborations with Belgian experts. These methods do not have to be developed by yourself, nor by the organization you are working for. Both methods that are still in developments as well as methods in different stages of validation are considered, as long as they are scientifically sound. You can submit your expertise via the online tool here or via the pink button ‘Submit Method’ in the top right corner of your screen.
Please note you need to register beforehand. Do not hesitate to contact us via info@RE-Place.be if you would like to have further assistance.
Which type of information can I submit to the database?
We want to have a comprehensive understanding of the expertise that is available in Belgium, therefore, a short description of the method(s) you are currently using is the main information we are looking for. We recommend you to use terminology that is well understandable, so it can be easily understood by scientists from different disciplines.
Why should I submit my expertise?
You will help to create a realistic overview of what is, at present, scientifically feasible with the use of NAMs. This information is of interest to other scientists, but also to regulators, governmental agencies, ethical committees, funding bodies and not at least the general public to get a better understanding of what is possible and what is the current status of innovative science.
How can my expertise help other scientists?
By submitting your expertise, you will be able to support other scientists in setting-up or optimizing their research strategy by facilitating the identification of possible alternatives in order to use less live animals.
Which advantages do I have?
You increase the visibility of your work to different stakeholders (scientists, regulators, governmental agencies, ethical committees, and funding bodies). You position yourself as expert in the field of NAMs, which increases the opportunities to connect with peers and engage in new collaborations.
Are there fees linked to the use of the RE-Place database?
No. RE-Place is an open access database, free of charge.
Where do I create an account?
You can create an account via one of the buttons ‘Log In’ or ‘Submit Method’ at the top right corner of your screen. You will receive an automatic e-mail to confirm your registration. Once your account has been created, you are able to submit one or multiple methods. If you have any questions about the registration process, do not hesitate to contact us via info@RE-Place.be, so we can provide you the information required via e-mail, or we can set up an (online) meeting.
Where can I change my password?
You can update all your personal details (first name, last name, e-mail address, and password) via the tab ‘My Account’.
How can I update my employer’s details?
You can update your personal and organizational details via the tab ‘My Account’. To add multiple employers, click the button ‘Add Organization’.
I want to delete my account, what should I do?
You can send an e-mail to info@RE-Place.be to delete your account. You will be informed once your account has been removed. After deletion, we will not be able to re-activate your account with the corresponding content.
Please note: If you have submitted your methods as part of a ‘Group’, your methods will remain linked to that ‘Group’, and a new contact person will be assigned by the administrator of your ‘Group’. More information is provided in the section ‘My Groups’.
Submit a method
How can I submit a method?
Via the pink button ‘Submit Method’ at the top right corner of your screen. You will be automatically directed to the first step of the online tool.
The method I want to submit is already present in the RE-Place database, should I still submit it?
Yes. Even if another scientist already submitted information about a particular NAM, it remains valuable to enter your own expertise. For instance, you might have used it in a different application domain, or combined it with other NAMs, which makes your knowledge relevant to other scientists. In addition, this will help your organisation and colleagues to get a better overview on the in-house expertise.
Can I submit a method that is not (yet) validated?
Yes, the regulatory status of a method is not relevant for this project, so the NAMs you want to submit do not have to be officially validated. Of course, they should be scientifically sound.
Can I submit a method that is still under development?
Yes, the regulatory status of a method is not relevant for this project. Submitting information on methods that you are currently developing can even help you to connect with other research groups who are working on similar methodologies. You can help each other to troubleshoot problems, and speed-up the development process. However, it is recommended to indicate clearly that the method is still under development in the third step of the online tool.
I did not develop the method that I am using, can I submit it?
Yes, absolutely. You can submit every NAM in which you have experience to the RE-Place database.
My method has been developed in collaboration with a partner. Can I indicate this?
Yes, in the first step of the online tool, you can indicate the name of your partner organization and enter the e-mail address of your contact person. This contact person will be notified about your entry in the RE-Place database. The name of your partner organization will now be linked with your method in the RE-Place database. The name of your contact person, however, will not be displayed as this is not allowed according the GDPR legislation.
Do I have to upload a full protocol?
This is possible, but not mandatory. A short description of the NAM is already sufficient. However, if you do want to submit a full protocol or SOP, you can upload it as a Word or PDF document in the fifth step of the online tool.
How does the submission process work?
Each submitted method goes through 3 different steps:
- ‘Saved as draft’: you already started to enter a method, but did not yet complete all mandatory information fields (indicated by a red asterisk). Your entry has been ‘Saved as draft’ and you can ‘Continue’ with completing your method whenever you want.
- ‘Submit to database’: you completed all mandatory fields. This means your method is now ready to be included in the RE-Place database. To do so, you have to click the pink button ‘Submit to database’.
- ‘Included in database’: after you submitted a method, it will be reviewed by the RE-Place team (valid submitter, spelling, lay-out,..). Once your method has been approved, you will receive an automatic e-mail confirming that your method is available in the RE-Place database. The status of your method will change to ‘Included in database’. This might take 3-5 working days.
You can track the status of your method(s) via the button ‘My Methods’ in your account at the top right corner of your screen.
Can you help me submit a method?
Yes, of course. Do not hesitate to contact us via info@RE-Place.be, so we can provide you with the necessary information via e-mail, or set up an (online) meeting.
After submitting information
How can I edit my Method?
Via the button ‘Update’ in the tab ‘My Methods’. You can update your method at any given time point, even after its inclusion in the RE-Place database. The date of the last modification is also displayed on that page.
Can I notify my supervisor(s)/promotor(s)/colleague(s) that I have submitted my method(s)?
Yes, there are multiple ways to inform people about your entries:
- You can enter the e-mail address of your peers, colleagues, promotors, supervisors, principle investigators, head of departments… in the last step of the online tool. They will receive an automatic e-mail with a link to your method once it is included in the database.
- Once your method is available in the RE-Place database, you can share your method via e-mail or LinkedIn with the corresponding buttons on the right side of the screen.
I have submitted a method, but I cannot find it in the RE-Place database. What happened?
There can be several reasons why your method is not (yet) included in the database:
- Your method is pending approval by the RE-Place team. This might take 3 to 5 working days after the submission date.
- The NAM you have entered, is not within the scope of the RE-Place project e.g. clinical studies or biomonitoring. In that case, you will be notified by one of the members of the RE-Place team.
- Each submitted method has to be linked with a direct contact person in Belgium. Methods that do not have a clear link with a Belgian expert are currently withheld from the database. E.g. if you are a scientist working in India or the United States, and you do not have any collaborations in Belgium. At this moment, the database is focused on capturing existing expertise at a national level. Expansion to other countries will be reviewed at a later point in time.
- You might have encountered a technical issue, please contact info@RE-Place.be.
Does someone verify the content of the submitted methods?
Yes, the RE-Place team reviews every method that is submitted to the RE-Place database according to a number of pre-set administrative criteria (e.g. trustworthy expert and organization, the method is included in the definition of a NAM, spelling, lay-out,…). The scientific content of a method, however, will not be verified by the RE-Place team. This is the responsibility of the submitter.
Please note: if you are part of a ‘Group’, and your promotor/professor/principle investigator/.. is an administrator of that ‘Group’, he/she will be able to verify and update the content of the methods you have submitted. More information on ‘Groups’ is provided in the section below.
What happens after my method is published on the RE-Place database?
Since RE-Place is an open access platform, scientists from all over the world will be able to learn more about your expertise and research methods.
How can I delete a method from the RE-Place database?
You can send an e-mail to info@RE-Place.be with the title and/or link of the method you want to delete. You will be informed once your method has been removed. After deletion, we will not be able to retrieve your methods.
If you are working in a particular (research-)group within an organisation such as a university, you are able to create ‘Groups’ in the system. In that case, you can invite people to be part of your ‘Groups’, and you will have an overview of all expertise within your (research-)group. The feature ‘Groups’ will always be referred to with a capital in this section. More information in the different questions.
How can I create or join a ‘Group’?
When you start entering a method in the online tool, you can indicate the name of your (research) group in the first step. If your (research-)group already exists in the RE-Place website, it will appear in the text field when you start typing. If your (research-)group does not yet exist, it will be automatically created and then you will become the main responsible, the ‘Administrator’, of the ‘Group’. Now you can invite your colleagues, change their role (member/contributor vs administrator), edit the name of your ‘Group’, and approve methods submitted by the members of your ‘Group’. You will also have access to an overview of all methods submitted within your ‘Group’.
Is it mandatory to create a ‘Group’?
No, it is not mandatory. You can also leave this text field empty. However, it might be that the responsible of your (research-)group decides it would be useful to create a ‘Group’ in the RE-Place database. Please contact your supervisor to clarify this. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us via info@RE-Place.be.
Does everybody have the same rights within a ‘Group’?
No, there are 2 roles in a ‘Group’:
- ‘Member/Contributor’: everyone who is responsible for submitting methods in the name of your (research-)group. Members/contributors are mainly PhD students, laboratory technicians, scientific collaborators,…
- ‘Administrator’: one or multiple members of your (research-)group can be ‘Administrator’ of a ‘Group’. These are the main responsibles of your (research-)group that can add or delete members from the ‘Group’, change the role of the members, approve and modify methods submitted within that ‘Group’, and edit the name of the ‘Group’. An ‘Administrator’ is normally the head of your (research-)group within your organisation, the principle investigator, a professor or your promotor,… This can also be the secretary of your (research-)group.
How can I use ‘My Groups’? Which advantages does it have?
- As a ‘Member/Contributor’ you are 100% sure that the submitted information is internally checked by your promotor, professor, or head of department. You will also have access to an overview of the methods submitted by your colleagues.
- As an ‘Administrator’ you will have an overview of all the Group members/contributors, and the methods that are submitted within your Group. You will be automatically notified once a new method is entered via your Group, and you will be able to approve that method before it is included in the RE-Place database. Only after your approval, these methods will be included in the RE-Place database. You will also be able to modify the content of the method, and the associated contact person in case a person leaves your (research-)group.
Can someone of ‘My Groups’ edit my methods?
Yes, but only the ‘Administrator’ of your ‘Group’ can do this. ‘Group Administrators’ are able to read, update and approve all methods submitted by the members of their Group.
I want to delete my account, what will happen to the methods I have submitted via ‘My Groups’?
The methods you have submitted via a ‘Group’ will remain linked to that particular ‘Group’. The Administrator(s) of that ‘Group’ can change the contact person for those methods.
How can I change the name of the contact person for the methods I have submitted?
This is only possible if you are a member of a ‘Group’. In this case, the ‘Administrator’ of the ‘Group’ can change the contact person of a method via the corresponding icon on the overview of the submitted methods via ‘My Groups’. Otherwise, please contact info@RE-Place.be.
Where can I find additional information on how to use ‘My Groups’?
Watch the video below for more information, and you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us via info@RE-Place.be.
Which information can I find in the Tab ‘My Organisation’?
If your organisation has a dedicated contact person to collect all in-house expertise, you will find his/her contact details here. If you would like to appoint such a dedicated contact person, please contact us via info@RE-Place.be, so we can provide you with the necessary information.
What are the tasks of a dedicated contact person of an organisation?
If you are the dedicated contact person within your organisation, you will be able to manage accounts, methods and (research-)groups linked to your organisation. For instance, you will be able to approve new accounts, approve and follow-up on newly created ‘Groups’, and you will have a full overview of all your in-house expertise (methods from all ‘Groups’ linked to your organisation). Feel free to contact us for an online demo on how to use this feature via info@RE-Place.be. You can also watch the instruction video via this link:
Where can I find additional information on how to use the Tab ‘My Organisation’ as an admin?
Follow this link to an instruction video:
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us via info@RE-Place.be, so we can provide you with the necessary information via e-mail or set up an (online) meeting.
Privacy and IP rights
I want to contact the submitter of a method, but his/her name is not displayed in the database. What can I do?
This expert has chosen not to mention his/her name on the website. You can send an e-mail to info@RE-Place.be with the link of the method, your question, and your contact details. We will forward your message to the expert. However, he/she is not obliged to answer your question.
I do not want that my name is displayed on the RE-Place website. Is this mandatory?
No, it is not. You can decide yourself whether your name and/or the name of your organization(s) are displayed on the RE-Place website when you submit your method in the last step of the online tool. You can indicate this for every individual method, and modify your choice at any given time point via the button ‘Update’. However, we encourage you to have your name displayed as this will increase the visibility of your expertise and enable peers, government agencies, regulators and funding bodies to contact you directly.
Can there be conflicts with IP rights when I submit a method?
No, we only request a minimum amount of mandatory information. You are free to determine the type and amount of information you want to disclose with the scientific community. If your method entails any type of sensitive information, you are not obliged to submit it via the online tool. You can thus decide yourself which information should be left out. Do not hesitate to contact us via info@RE-Place.be for more information. If needed, we can set up a meeting with the responsible person of your legal department of your organisation to further discuss your concerns.