Animal Ethics Committee

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Animal Ethics Committee

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Terms of Reference

Purpose and objectives
  • To fulfil the role of an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) as required by the Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes (the Code).
  • To protect the welfare of animals used for scientific purposes and to ensure minimal harm or unjust use of animals.
  • To ensure the use of animals has scientific or educational merit.
  • To ensure that respect for animals underpins all decisions and actions involving the care and use of animals for scientific purposes, which must be demonstrated by the following governing principles and ethical framework: 
  1. use animals only when justified
  2. support the wellbeing of the animals involved
  3. avoid or minimise harm, including pain and distress, to animals
  4. apply high standards of scientific integrity
  5. apply Replacement, Reduction and Refinement (the 3Rs) at all stages of animal care and use
  6. know and accept one’s responsibilities.
  • To ethically review and monitor research and teaching activities in accordance with the Code.
  • To facilitate ethically good research and teaching activities through efficient and thorough review processes developed in accordance with the Code.
  • To promote effective communication between the AEC, researchers and the institution.
Functions
  • Review proposed projects involving animals and amendments to approved projects to determine whether they are ethically acceptable and in accordance with the Code and other relevant policies and legislations, and approve, defer or reject proposals as required.
  • Monitor the progress and completion of approved projects through inspections, audits, annual and final reports, including follow-up reviews of approved projects and activities and only permit the continuation of approval for those projects and activities that are ethically acceptable and conform to the requirements of the Code.
  • Review applications for activities associated with the care and management of animals in facilities, including procedures applicable to breeding programs integral to the maintenance of an animal line, and approve only those activities that are ethically acceptable and conform to the requirements of the Code.
  • Withdraw or suspend approval for any project that may be deemed to be unethical or non-compliant with the Code, the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, or other relevant policies and legislation.
  • Monitor the care and use of animals, including housing conditions, practices and procedures involved in the care of animals in facilities.
  • Take appropriate action regarding unexpected adverse events and non-compliance.
  • Comment on institutional plans and policies that may affect the welfare and rights of animals used for scientific purposes and approve guidelines for the care and use of animals on behalf of the institution.
  • Provide advice to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) on measures needed to ensure that the requirements and standards of the Code, the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research and relevant USC policies and procedures are met and maintained.
  • Provide advice to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) on strategies to promote awareness and understanding of the ethical conduct of animal research and teaching activities within USC and the broader community.
  • Receive complaints regarding the conduct of animal research and teaching projects or the conduct of the AEC, and to deal with these promptly in accordance with the Code, the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research and USC policies and procedures.
  • Bring to the attention of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) issues of significant concern.
Membership
  • Minimum membership must comprise a chairperson and at least one person from each of the four membership categories.
  • The chairperson will hold a senior position in the institution, or, if an external appointee, must hold suitable experience.
  • The chairperson and members must fulfil their responsibilities as outlined in the Code.
  • The four membership categories are:
  • Category A (Veterinarian): a person with qualifications in veterinary science that are recognised for registration as a veterinary surgeon in Australia, and with experience relevant to the institution’s activities or the ability to acquire relevant knowledge.
  • Category B (Researcher): a suitably qualified person with substantial and recent experience in the use of animals for scientific purposes relevant to the institution and the business of the AEC. This must include possession of a higher degree in research or equivalent experience.
  • Category C (Animal Welfare): a person with demonstrable commitment to and established experience in furthering the welfare of animals, who is not employed by or otherwise associated with the institution, and who is not currently involved in the care and use of animals for scientific purposes. Veterinarians with specific animal welfare interest and experience may meet the requirements of this category.
  • Category D (Independent): a person not employed by or otherwise associated with the institution and who has never been involved in the use of animals in scientific or teaching activities, either in their employment or beyond their undergraduate education. Category D members should be viewed by the wider community as bringing a completely independent view to the AEC, and must not fit the requirements of any other category.
  • Membership may include a deputy chairperson who will act as the chairperson as required.
  • Where possible, additional members may be appointed to assist the AEC. These may include a person responsible for the routine care of animals within the institution and additional members with skills and background of value to the AEC.
  • The AEC may invite people with specific expertise to provide advice to the committee, as required.
  • Categories C and D must together represent at least one-third of the AEC membership.
Appointment of members
  • Members are recruited by direct approach, nomination or by advertisement through an open and transparent selection process. 
  • Members are appointed by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) and will be provided with a formal notice of appointment.
  • Members must accept these terms of reference and declare any conflicts of interest before appointment.
  • Members are provided with appropriate induction, support, and training and are expected to engage in training provided.
  • The chairperson may receive remuneration to compensate for the additional time required to both chair the meetings and perform executive duties as determined by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation).
  • The term of office of a newly appointed member will be three years, with the option of reappointment for subsequent terms by approval of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation).
  • The appointment of a member may be terminated if the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) determines that:
    • it is in the best interest of the AEC and the institution 
    • the member is not fit to serve on an AEC, or
    • the member has failed to carry out their AEC duties.
  • Members may resign from the AEC at any time throughout their tenure.
Delegations
  • The AEC may establish an AEC Executive, which must comprise the chairperson and at least one member from Category C or D. The AEC Executive:
    • may approve minor amendments to approved projects or activities for ratification at the next AEC meeting
    • must not approve new applications.
  • In accordance with the Code, the institution may establish other non-AEC levels of ethical review, which will be described in relevant USC policy and procedures.
  • On the recommendation of the AEC, the institution may establish subcommittees to assist the AEC in its work.
  • The AEC may delegate authority to an agent or suitably qualified persons to inspect and monitor remote sites.
Quorum and voting protocols
  • At least one member from each of the membership categories A, B, C and D must be present at meetings to establish a quorum for the conduct of a meeting.
  • If more than four members are present, categories C and D together must represent at least one-third of those members present.
  • In exceptional circumstances, a quorum may be established using videoconferencing and web-conferencing (or in special circumstances, teleconferencing).
  • Members with a conflict of interest must withdraw from the meeting and remaining members must constitute a quorum as defined above.
Meetings
  • The AEC shall determine the frequency of its meetings ensuring that the timing and frequency of meetings effectively support the institution’s research activities.
  • As far as possible, meetings will be arranged to enable at least one member in each category to attend.
  • The chairperson must preside at the AEC meetings. If the chairperson is absent, the deputy chairperson may preside in their absence.
Accountability and reporting
  • The AEC is directly accountable to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation).
  • The AEC will conduct an annual self-assessment exercise with the results being presented to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), the Research Committee and Academic Board.
  • The AEC reports annually to: 
  1. the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF)
  2. USC’s Research Committee (more regular reports to be provided if determined in Research Committee’s terms of reference)
  3. USC’s Academic Board
  4. the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), and
  5. external regulatory bodies as required. 
  • The AEC Chairperson and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) meet annually to discuss the AEC annual report and any other issues that may impact on compliance with the Code.
Revisions
Approved: Council C00/61, 13 June 2000
Revised: Council C05/46, 7 June 2005
Revised:  Council C09/103, 8 December 2009
Revised:     Council C10/101, 7 December 2010
Revised: AE12/31, 14 November 2012
Revised:  Academic Board, 26 May 2015
Revised: Academic Board, 11 March 2016
Revised: Academic Board, 7 November 2017
Related documents
Related legislation / standards
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