Science for Progress

because science is fundamental in the 21st century

SfProcur Curator: July 03 – 08: Nuno Henrique Franco – @Nuno_H_Franco

Dr. Nuno Henrique Franco is Assistant Researcher at the Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde, i3S (Institute for Investigation and Innovation in Health) at the University of Porto, Portugal. His research focuses on laboratory animal welfare, along with ethical, legal, social and scientific issues in animal research. His research interests also include translational science, science communication and education. In 2013, he received the UFAW Young Animal Welfare Scientist of the Year Award.

Animal research is a complex topic with social, scientific, and ethical implications. We may never reach a consensus on it. But this is one of its main appeals to Nuno Henrique Franco. He is active in animal research outreach from visiting schools to participating in public debates, giving interviews, blogging, writing op-eds on mainstream newspapers, advising on politics and organising workshops on communication of animal research.

But he finds it most gratifying to talk about the scientific and ethical aspects of animal research with the many high-school and college students who visit his institute. After having talked to hundreds such visitors, he is still often asked interesting new questions. Most recently, he – together with Sociedade Portuguesa de Ciências em Animais de Laboratório (SPCAL) and the European Animal Research Association (EARA) – has been promoting the Transparency Agreement on Animal Research, which will be signed by several Portuguese research institutes.

During his curation, Nuno Henrique Franco will address the validity of animal models, reproducible research, ethics in animal research, and societal views on the topic. It will include some history, some philosophy, and some science.

background

Nuno Henrique Franco (*1980) grew up in Braga, Portugal. Founded in 20BCE, it’s an old, conservative, and profoundly religious place. Thus, he grew up “soaked in Catholicism”, as Portuguese Nobel Prize laureate José Saramago would describe it. At the same time, Braga’s citizens are rather young on average. The middle-sized metropolis is vibrant, and innovative, with high living standards and one of the highest happiness scores in the EU. This is where Nuno Henrique Franco had an “analogical childhood”, free to roam the parks and old streets, and playing outside until dusk. As a teen he went camping (sometimes for months), played the guitar, and enjoyed life in great freedom.

Following Catholic school, Nuno Henrique Franco studied Biology and Geology at University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro to become a high school teacher. He learned about these sciences, their interactions and interfaces (in paleontology, pedology, etc), as well as pedagogy. Studying educational sciences he became aware of the systemic causes of inequality for school children, which accompany them throughout their whole life. It had a profound effect on his political inclinations. But it were the field activities and the lab work in Biology and Geology that really drew him in. Gone were his days as a believer, as his scientific training led him to become secular and a skeptic, but in awe to the wonders of the Universe.

After graduating, Nuno Henrque Franco enrolled in the newly established 4-year biology degree at his alma mater. He wanted more than just teaching science. To make a living, he continued giving classes in middle and high-school. He also worked part-time at the IBMC in Porto, on a science education project that had rats in primary schools, which ended up also being his internship. Meanwhile Nuno Henrique Franco had applied for and was awarded a competitive national PhD grant. As a PhD student (2008-2012) he was supervised by Dr. Anna Olsson at the IBMC’s Laboratory Animal Science (LAS) group. He was awarded another national competitive grant – this time as a post-doc – to continue his work. Nuno Henrique Franco now is an Assistant Researcher at the i3S, a mega-institute that resulted from the merge of three research institutes, including the IBMC.