Curriculum vitae Merel (Jelméra) Ritskes-Hoitinga

November 2017



Name: Merel Ritskes-Hoitinga

Date of birth: 25 February 1960

Place of birth: Wymbritseradeel



Titles: DVM, PhD, Animal Welfare Officer, Dipl ECLAM

Professor in Evidence-Based Laboratory Animal Science, Radboud University Medical Center



HIGHLIGHTS of the past years – Systematic Reviews of animal studies

25 September 2017. Merel was organiser and co-chair of a round table in Edinburgh with editors, funders and science organisations aimed at improving uptake of reporting guidelines for animal studies. At the roundtable individuals and organizations who proactively work on this issue across Europe were present. One of the clear outcomes of the roundtable is that a culture change is needed. As a result of the roundtable a letter to the editor has been published in BMC Veterinary Research, calling upon more relevant and useful training by academic institutions, in order to achieve better skilled scientists for the conduct of reproducible and reliable animal studies: http://rdcu.be/ybIv.



30 May 2017 SYRCLE received the Cochrane REWARD 2nd. Prize. The Cochrane REWARD prizes are for initiatives aimed at reducing waste in research.





24 May 2017 Judith van Luijk successfully defended her thesis


The thesis concerns research into the effectiveness of the 3Rs and systematic reviews (SRs) of animal studies, and what SRs can contribute to animal-based research and what actions are needed.


This work contributes to reducing waste in animal research and encourage evidence-based research in laboratory animal science.

6-7 December 2016 Merel Ritskes-Hoitinga participated in a panel discussion at the EU scientific conference in Brussels to engage the scientific community and relevant stakeholders in a debate on how to exploit cutting edge advances in biomedical and other research in the development of scientifically valid non-animal approaches. She has made a plea for designating 2020 as the year of the systematic reviews.



23 April 2016 a public accountability speech was presented to the public at large. The aim of an accountability speech is to inform tax payers how the money has been spent. In this speech the achievements of the past 10 years were discussed and a view into the next 10 years was given. A plea for a worldwide goal was made: 1/2N 2Q 4P – aiming to reduce the number of animals used worldwide by 50%, and at the same time doubling the quality of animal studies and quadripling patient relevance. In the speech the likelihood of achieving this is supported by facts and evidence. The text in Dutch:



(English translation, PDF)


SYRCLE was founded in 2012. See www.syrcle.nl


A conference “Laboratory Animal Science 2.0” was organised 15 October 2015, to mark the occasion of the Central Animal Laboratory Facility’s foundation at the Radboudumc 60 years ago. The focus was on the past, present and future role of animal studies in science and health care. The first e-learning module in the field of systematic reviews of animal studies was launched and is freely available from the SYRCLE website (www.SYRCLE.nl). A global ambassador network, dedicated to promoting and developing education in systematic reviews of animal studies, has been founded.



SYRCLE ambassador network



Subsidies to SYRCLE by the Dutch health funding organisation ZonMW have made it possible to organise national workshops and provide coaching to researchers who want to execute systematic reviews of animal studies. Six successful workshops with in total 120 participants were organised, and over 30 participants have actually started performing a systematic review under the guidance of SYRCLE scientists. A substantial number of systematic reviews have already been written. This way, valuable translational information is made transparent through using this multidisciplinary methodology (see publications). Since 2015, an international one week course in systematic reviews of animal studies is organised during the Radboud Summer School.


Subsidies by the Ministry of Economic Affairs were acquired in order to develop tools and guidelines for the effective and reliable execution of systematic reviews of animal studies. The first e-learning module in systematic reviews of animal studies was launched in 2015. In 2012 and 2014 two motions were accepted in the Dutch Parliament concerning systematic reviews of animal studies. New connections with international networks such as the CAMARADES, GRADE and Cochrane Collaboration have been firmly established.



July 2013 an important publication appeared in PloSMedicine, acknowledging the value of Systematic Reviews of animal studies towards more evidence-based translational medicine: Hooijmans CR, Ritskes-Hoitinga M (2013) Progress in Using Systematic Reviews of Animal Studies to Improve Translational Research. PLoS Med 10(7): e1001482.doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001482 http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1001482


With a great thanks to valuable input from Sir Iain Chalmers (James Lindh Library)

and Susan Green (SABRE UK) to the PloSMed paper.


At the Cochrane Colloquiem in Quebec a succesful workshop and special meeting dedicated to Systematic Reviews of animal studies was organised by SYRCLE (www.SYRCLE.nl). A Cochrane animal study methods group is to be established.


Special meeting Quebec Sept. 2013


February 2012 the first international symposium and workshop on Systematic Reviews of animal studies was organised by SYRCLE (www.SYRCLE.nl). Key note speaker Prof. Malcolm Macleod from the CAMARADES collaboration. All video presentations are available online. A minisymposium on this topic was organised in August 2012. All ppt presentations can be found online.


10 February 2012 practical workshop


Valkhof Chair

Prof. Dr. Kay Dickersin, Head of the US Cochrane, was awarded the Valkhof Chair. SYRCLE was the main applicant for the Valkhof Chair. Kay made a very successful and fruitful visit to the Radboud University Medical Center in June 2013.


I founded the 3R Research Center (3RRC) at the Radboud University Medical Center in December 2006

The aim was to provide service and support for the improved search and implementation of Refinement, Reduction and Replacement (3R “alternatives”) of animal studies. In 2009 the focus has shifted towards the execution of Systematic Reviews, as the execution of Systematic Reviews leads to better patient safety, higher quality of science and the implementation of the 3Rs simultaneously. For this work on Systematic Reviews, two prices were obtained in 2011: by the Dutch Animal Protection Association awarded ‘De Lef in het Lab prijs’, and the Swiss Laboratory Animal Science Association SGV awarded a price for the article “The Gold Standard Publication Checklist” (published in ATLA 2011)


Lef in het Lab prijs, Dierenbescherming, 3 October 2011



The name of the 3RRC was changed into SYRCLE (Systematic Review Centre for Laboratory animal Experimentation) in February 2012. The work on Systematic Reviews of animal studies started in 2008.







2006 Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center – Does a rat have Boeddha nature?

http://repository.ubn.ru.nl/handle/2066/27416 (in Dutch)









1997 University of Southern Denmark – Animals and models: who cares? http://www.sdu.dk/~/media/files/om_sdu/fakulteterne/sundhedsvidenskab/professor_seminar/healthsci1%20pdf.ashx (p.37-47).






Department for Health Evidence

Radboud University Medical Center

PO Box 9101

NL-6500 HB Nijmegen

The Netherlands

Tel. +31(0)24 36 10709

Email Merel.Ritskes-Hoitinga@Radboudumc.nl

Website www.syrcle.nl