Orientation of new members of animal ethics committees
Animal Research Review Panel Policy 15
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).
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:
- A list of AEC members and their categories of membership, preferably with contact details (if approved by individual members).
- AEC forms (such as research application, amendment application, inspection, unexpected adverse event reporting, and annual project reporting).
- The Animal Research Authority form issued by the establishment.
- Terms of reference and operating procedures of the AEC.
- Grievance procedures of the establishment concerning animal research.
- Confidentiality agreements and requirements for confidentiality.
- Standard operating procedures approved by the AEC.
- Any guidelines on animal care and emergency procedures approved by the AEC and any relevant policy documents.
- Rehoming policies and procedures.
- Procedures in place for ongoing training and support of AEC members.
- Procedures in place for training, and assessing the competency, of researchers.
- A schedule of AEC meeting times, dates and venues.
- A schedule of AEC inspections.
- Sitting fees and payment of expenses where applicable.
- The most recent annual report of the AEC to the head of the establishment.
- Link to the AEC / research office website.
- A map of the establishment including animal holding and use facilities.
- Australian Code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes.
- Animal Research Act 1985.
- Animal Research Regulation 2021.
- Link to Animal Ethics Infolink home page.
- Links to Animal Research Review Panel policies, guidelines and fact sheets.
- Link to Animal Research Review Panel annual reports.
- Link to Form L: Animal use statistics and Guidance on completing Form L.
- Address for NSW Department of Primary Industries Animal Welfare Inbox to request inclusion on the Animal Welfare Circular list: email@example.com
- Links to industry bodies such as the Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART) and the Australian and New Zealand Laboratory Animal Association (ANZLAA).
- Links to training material such as ANZCCART ComPass.
- Link to the PREPARE guidelines (Planning Research and Experimental Procedures on Animals: Recommendations for Excellence).
- Link to the ARRIVE guidelines (Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments).
- Link to the NHMRCBest practice methodology in the use of animals for scientific purposes.
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.