Applied animal behaviour science and animal welfare: seeking the best balance between our science and its application

A. B. Lawrence*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Applied animal behaviour science has been closely connected with animal welfare since the formation of the Society for Veterinary Ethology (SVE) in the mid-1960s. It is important to understand the implications of this 'special relationship' both in terms of the positives and opportunities it brings, but also its possible risks and adverse effects on our science. I have used two 'frameworks' in this paper to help understand the relationship. The first is 'Pasteur's Quadrant' proposed by Donald Stokes as an alternative view on science and its application (Stokes, 1997). Stokes rejects the idea that science can only be divided into 'basic' and 'applied' categories and also that the relationship between these is a simple linear progression. He introduced the idea of 'use-inspired basic research' which he exemplified through the work of Louis Pasteur the 'father of microbiology'. The proposition that we can seek fundamental understanding within the context of applying that knowledge, seems especially relevant to our field and interestingly seems to be the direction that science funders are progressing towards. I use three examples of strategic research in applied animal behaviour science, each of which presents a mix of basic science and its application to understanding the animals' 'perspective'. My second 'framework' is provided by the UK research excellence exercise (REF 2014), which I use to revisit the question of the impact of applied animal behaviour science in improving animal welfare. As a part of REF 2014 academic institutions were required to submit Impact Studies, with the aim of demonstrating how a peer reviewed paper progressed towards a measurable impact outside of the science community. I found 27 Impact Studies in the REF database that involve both behavioural science and animal welfare. The results are heartening in terms of the range and extent of the impacts claimed by the studies. I suggest that 'REF-like' exercises conducted in other countries with a tradition of applied animal behaviour science would yield similar results. These two approaches give grounds for optimism for the future based on evidence of strategic science developments within the field, and also that our science is having impact in improving animal welfare. I conclude by emphasising the importance of maintaining the best balance possible between development of our science and its application, something that as a science community we should work on at both a local and global level.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnimals and Us
Subtitle of host publication50 Years and More of Applied Ethology
EditorsJennifer Brown, Yolande Seddon, Michael Appleby
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9789086868285
ISBN (Print)9789086862825
Publication statusPrint publication - 2016


  • 'Pasteur's quadrant'
  • Animal welfare
  • Applied animal behaviour science
  • Research impact
  • Strategic research


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