Animal Science meeting discussed the revised Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act and the importance of communication around animals in research
On 6th December 2013, the Society of Biology and the Home Office's Animals in Science Regulation Unit (ASRU) hosted a joint meeting in London. The use of animals in scientific research was the main focus of this annual event. This year's meeting discussed the implementation of the revised Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act and its severity assessment, the communication amongst several staff roles and the importance of openness and transparency.
The meeting was co-chaired by Dr Judy MacArthur Clark (Head of Animals in Science Regulation, Home Office) and Professor Dominic Wells (Chair of the Animal Science Group, Society of Biology).
The Minister Norman Baker MP addressed the meeting via a recording, emphasising the importance of open communication and the 3Rs (Replacement, Refinement and Reduction).
The first session examined the implementation of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (as amended by SI 2012/3039) - following the transposition of the European Directive 2010/63/EU.
- Will Reynolds (ASRU) reviewed the progress on implementation in 2013 and spoke about the forthcoming improvements and challenges in 2014.
- Dr Kathleen Mathers (MRC National Institute for Medical Research) spoke about the process of planning the Biological Research Facility in the new Francis Crick Institute.
The following session concentrated on the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (as amended by SI 2012/3039) focussing on severity assessment.
- David Buist (ASRU) provided an overview of all current severity categories and limits.
- Dr Steve Ryder (ASRU) explained the actual severity assessment in combination with practical examples.
The third session addressed the challenges of effective communication amongst scientists, veterinary surgeons (NVS) and animal care staff.
- Sue Houlton (ASRU) presented a successful case of troubleshooting, highlighting an excellent line of communication amongst different roles in an establishment.
- Dr Clive DaCosta (London Research Institute) spoke about the scientific perspective. He explained the challenges of clear communication and how the team managed to overcome most of these difficulties, particularly by having inclusive meetings to ensure that all perspectives are understood [download presentation].
- Alison Martin (London Research Institute) described the animal care perspective and presented several practical examples of better communication. She emphasised the importance of effective communication amongst all roles and a predefined plan of action which should be modified for every research project [download presentation].
- Lucy Whitfield (Royal Veterinary College) spoke about the current challenges for veterinary surgeons, explaining how a standardised reporting format improved the overall communication [download presentation].
Table discussions afterwards encouraged the group to present additional examples of Good Practice – concerns and comments from different perspectives were gathered and interestingly the overarching themes and the solutions proposed were very similar despite coming from individual representatives. Communication and training in communication were highlighted in particular.
In the fourth session, a panel discussed the current and future challenges of openness and transparency on animals in research.
- Wendy Jarrett (Understanding Animal Research) explained the importance of openness on animals in research and informed the group about the development of the Concordat on Openness [download presentation].
- Jonny Halls (ASRU) gave an update on the current legislative development of the Section 24* / Freedom of Information Act review.
The panel answered questions from the audience which had been identified during a workshop session. The dialogue focused in particular on the issues around personal security and the definition of academic intellectual property.
A well balanced audience of ASRU members, scientists, vets and animal care staffs from all over the UK was at the heart of the success of this one-day meeting - representing a wide range of interests and expertise. Several workshop groups encouraged an open dialogue between all attendees and provided a good level of energy throughout the day.
* At present, information about animal experiments is partially exempted from the Freedom of Information Act by section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.
The following documents and links provide relevant additional information: