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Featured research impact summary
Improving UK animal research governance: Delivering effective ethical review
This project was funded by a University of Nottingham ESRC Impact Accelerator Award and led by Dr Pru Hobson-West in collaboration with the RSPCA. It links to a broader programme of ongoing work funded by a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award (2017-2022).
The use of animals as laboratory models is currently a key method of life science research and can contribute to the development of new medicines and new biomedical knowledge. The public legitimacy of animal research and testing relies on effective governance structures.
The AWERB is the 'Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body' which each animal research institution is required to have by law. These bodies must include professionals, such as veterinary surgeons, and independent (or lay) members are encouraged. However, these committees have multiple tasks and some find it difficult to fulfil all of these effectively.
The aim of the impact project is to find ways to improve the way ethical review is carried out in the UK.
Dr Hobson-West worked closely with senior staff at the RSPCA to organise and run a workshop held in London in 2016. Members of AWERBs from across the UK attended to share their experiences.
The outcome was an open access booklet which draws on this workshop, and previous University of Nottingham research, to make concrete suggestions for ways to improve the functioning of the AWERB. In particular, advice is provided about how best to ensure that there is sufficient time and space to discuss the wider ethical issues associated with animal research.
The booklet is co-authored by Dr Pru Hobson-West (University of Nottingham), Dr Penny Hawkins (RSPCA), and supported by LASA (Laboratory Animals Science Association), IAT (Institute of Animal Technology), and LAVA (Laboratory Animals Veterinary Association).
The booklet was distributed to all UK AWERBs (that is to all universities and commercial organisations who carry out animal research, as well as lab animal breeding facilities). Several methods are being used to capture the practical impact of this booklet and how it is changing practice.
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