How STRANGE are your study animals?

Date: 26/08/2021





Topic: How STRANGE are your study animals? 

Date: Thursday, 26 August 2021, 9:30 


Twitter: @considerSTRANGE 


Registration deadline: 15 August 2021 


Following the ASAB Summer Meeting this year, there is a one-day satellite meeting to discuss issues related to the STRANGE framework for animal behaviour research. This event is hosted by Mike Webster, Ellis Langley, Cat Hobaiter, and Christian Rutz from the Schools of Biology and Psychology/Neuroscience, University of St Andrews. 


It has long been realised that an animal’s behaviour is shaped by its genetic make-up, experience, and social background. Almost all the animals we test are distinct – or ‘strange’ – in these regards, and this can lead to challenges in extrapolating our findings to larger populations whose behaviour we seek to understand. This online meeting will focus on the new STRANGE framework aimed at identifying, mitigating, and reporting sampling biases in animal behaviour research. The STRANGE acronym refers to test subjects’: Social background; Trappability and self-selection; Rearing history; Acclimation and habituation; Natural changes in responsiveness; Genetic make-up; and Experience. Sampling biases with regards to any of these factors can significantly impact the interpretation of experimental outcomes, limit the generalisability of findings, complicate comparisons between studies, and hamper reproducibility. But it’s not all bad news! Identifying and understanding these sources of variation between samples and studies can produce powerful new insights into animal behaviour and create exciting new research avenues. 


How STRANGE are your study animals? Do some of your subjects engage better with tasks than others? What is the role of subjects’ rearing history and experience, and of different testing protocols, in shaping participation rates and test performance? Are certain demographic groups in your study system easier to work with than others? How pervasive are sampling biases in your field, and how may they affect research outcomes and progress? And, importantly, what can we as a community do to better recognise, avoid, report, and explore sampling biases? Please submit an abstract for a talk or poster on any aspect of STRANGE, and bring questions and ideas to join in the open discussions following each talk session. 


You can find out more about the STRANGE framework for animal behaviour research here: 

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