Factors affecting the perception of New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) in the ecotoxicology community

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Given current legislative mandates to assess the safety of thousands of chemicals and the slow pace at which conventional testing proceeds, there is a need to accelerate chemical risk assessment. Governments and businesses are increasingly interested in New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) that promise to reduce costs and delays.

We explore five sociological factors within the ecotoxicology community that can influence the perception of NAMs: 1) professional profile (educational cohort, employer); 2) internal science communication within professional forums; 3) concern for ‘error cost’; 4) collaboration across stakeholders, and 5) fundamental beliefs regarding toxicology.

We conducted an online survey (n = 171, 2018) asking participants about their experiences and perspectives at events of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry to assess: 1) how NAMs are discussed compared to conventional testing; and 2) how respondents perceive their viability. We developed ordered logistic regression (OLR) models to understand the influence of exploratory variables (cohort, core views on toxicology, frequency of collaboration) on respondents’ evaluation of the viability of different NAMs.

1) NAMs were more likely than conventional methods to be challenged in forum discussions, which may be fuelled by concerns for ‘error costs’ in regulatory decision‐making; 2) perceptions of the viability of NAMs tended to follow a ‘pattern of familiarity’, whereby respondents that were more knowledgeable about a test method tended to find it more viable; 3) respondents who agreed with the Paracelsus maxim had a greater likelihood of finding conventional testing viable, and 4) the more a respondent reported collaborating with industry on alternative testing strategies, the more likely she/he was to report that NAMs were less viable.

These results suggest that there are professional and organizational barriers to greater acceptance of NAMs that can be addressed through a social learning process within the professional community.

This content has been updated on 4 February 2020 at 9 h 43 min.