Say you're conducting a trial on a new drug to help prevent stroke. You've got 20 mice: 10 getting the drug and the remaining 10 in your control group. It's a small study group, really small, but then your budget is small, and, well, everybody's doing it this way these days.
Seven of your test mice are doing really well, but unfortunately three of them die of massive strokes. What do you do? Simple. Just leave them out of the results. Yes, that's right, when you do up your charts and graphs, just don't mention the deceased rodents. Everybody's doing it this way these days.
That really happened. Actually, it turns out that really happens all the time in animal research. Luckily, in this particular case, the scientist who was asked to review the study didn't let it pass. The three dead mice, he pointed out, were vitally important elements of the study. Indeed, they showed that the new drug might be harmful rather than helpful.
That scientist, Ulrich Dirnagl, and a colleague named Malcolm MacLeod have been raising the alarm about the lax standards found in many animal research studies [source: Couzin-Frankel]. Let's hope their message gets through.