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Animal Ethics Infolink
A NSW Department of Primary Industries and Animal Research Review Panel initiative

Orientation of new members of animal ethics committees

Animal Research Review Panel Policy 15

1. Introduction

For the effective functioning of Animal Ethics Committees (AECs), AEC members should understand their roles and responsibilities under the Animal Research Act 1985 and the Australian Code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes, and how these apply at the accredited research establishment(s) that has appointed the AEC.

New members of AECs should be supported to ensure they are able to contribute effectively to the activities of the AEC. New members should be provided with a formal induction and access to training, information and contacts for queries.

The following are suggestions on mechanisms that can be used by research establishments to support new members of AECs through the initial induction process. Ongoing education and support also needs to be provided. Requirements for induction will vary with the backgrounds of new members and the operations of the establishment. The induction process should provide new members with a comprehensive understanding of the AEC’s role in the approval and monitoring of animal care and use.

Completion of an AEC training course is a minimum requirement for all AEC members. (See for example ANZCCART ComPass).

2. Induction

The induction process for new AEC members should incorporate provision of the following:

  • An overview of the research establishment, the type of research carried out and animals used.
  • An overview of the AEC’s role in the approval and monitoring of animal care and use.
  • An overview of AEC meeting procedures (such as scheduling of meetings, provision of agenda papers, conduct of meetings, quorum, declaration and management of conflicts of interest and decision-making procedures).
  • An overview of AEC inspection procedures.
  • An overview of the principles of the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) as providing a framework for ethical decision making in the use of animals in research and teaching.
  • An overview of applications and reporting to the AEC.
  • The opportunity to sit in as an observer at an AEC meeting, prior to participating as a member (including the provision of agenda papers, and minutes for the previous meeting).
  • Personal introductions to the AEC Chair, other AEC members and key staff such as the AEC Executive Officer, AEC support staff and the Animal Welfare Officer.
  • Contacts to provide support and assist with queries
  • A guided tour of animal housing and research facilities.
  • Demonstrations (for example by direct observation or video recordings) of common research procedures at the establishment.
  • Training in use of systems used by the establishment.
  • Assistance with enrolment in an AEC training course.

3. Background information

The provision of background information, by hard copies, electronic copies and links as appropriate, includes:

4. Australian Code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes

Chapter 2.2 of the Australian Code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes (Australian Code) sets out the responsibilities of institutions regarding the governance of AECs.

Clauses of the Australian Code of particular relevance to the induction of new members of AECs include:


2.2.1 Institutions that establish an AEC must:

(iii) provide the AEC with the resources required to carry out its responsibilities, and to maintain the AEC

(iv) establish procedures for the effective governance and operation of the AEC that will enable the AEC to meet its responsibilities under the Code and relevant institutional policies, and promote competent and timely ethical review of animal care and use

Appointment, reappointment and retirement of members

2.2.9 Institutions must develop procedures for the appointment, reappointment and retirement of AEC members.

2.2.10 Procedures must include the declaration of interests by prospective members and the management of conflicts of interest in making appointments.

2.2.11 Before appointment, all members of the AEC must acknowledge in writing their acceptance of the terms of reference of the AEC and any requirements for confidentiality required by the institution (see Clauses 2.1.2 and 2.2.22).

2.2.12 Institutions should ensure that AEC members undergo appropriate induction, and have access to appropriate education programs and resources.

Provide the animal ethics committee with adequate resources

2.2.19 The institution must provide the AEC with the resources required to carry out its responsibilities (see Chapter 2.3) and to maintain the AEC, and respond effectively to recommendations from the AEC regarding resources and workloads. Resources should include:

(ii) orientation and education of AEC members


The revision of this guideline was informed by responses to a survey on AEC education and training resources, carried out by NSW Department of Primary Industries and the Animal Research Review Panel in November 2020. The generosity of respondents in sharing their thoughts and insights is gratefully acknowledged.


© State of New South Wales through Regional NSW 2022. The information contained in this publication is based on knowledge and understanding at the time of writing (August 2022). However, because of advances in knowledge, users are reminded of the need to ensure that the information upon which they rely is up to date and to check the currency of the information with the appropriate officer of the Department of Regional NSW or the user’s independent adviser.