The primary responsibility of AECs is to ensure that the care and use of animals in animal research is carried out in compliance with the
Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes, 8th Edition (2013, "the Code").
An AEC must have a membership that will allow it to fulfil its Terms of Reference. It must comprise at least four persons, including a separate person appointed to each of the following categories:
- Category A: a person with qualifications in veterinary science and with experience relevant to the activities of the institution. Veterinarians who lack this experience must familiarise themselves with the biology and clinical characteristics of the species of animals used;
- Category B: a suitably qualified person with substantial recent experience in the use of animals in scientific or teaching activities. This will usually entail possession of a higher degree in research;
- Category C: 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 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. While not representing an animal welfare organisation, the person should, where possible, be selected on the basis of active membership of, and nomination by, such an organisation; and
- Category D: a person who is both independent of 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 under-graduate 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.
If the committee has more than four members, Categories C and D should represent no less than one third of the members.
It is recommended that the Chairperson is an additional appointment to Category members. The Chairperson should either hold a senior position in the institution or, if an external appointee, be given a commitment by the institution to provide the necessary support and authority to carry out the role. The Chairperson must oversee the operation of the AEC, advise institutional management regarding resources, represent the AEC in any negotiations with management, and oversee all requirements of the AEC to report and review its operation (section 2.2.2).
The Code also specifies that AECs may establish an Executive that has limited powers to approve AEC matters:
The AEC may establish an executive that must include at least one member from Category C or D who:
- may approve
minor modifications to projects for review at the next AEC meeting;
- may not approve new proposals.
AEC Executive OfficerThe role of the AEC Executive Officer is to be the conduit between the AEC and investigators. This requires overseeing, providing and coordinating a range of executive services that meet the needs of both parties.
The AEC Executive Officer does not take part in any decision-making relating to the approval of project applications or subsequent reporting.
AEC Animal Monitoring Officer
The role of the Animal Monitoring Officer (AMO) is to assist the AEC in monitoring projects activities, by inspecting nominated sites and facilities where animal are held and remote settings where new or novel procedures are to be employed. Inspections can include scheduled visits, as per a pre-arrangement with investigators or condition of AEC approval, and emergency visits, for example, following an adverse incident.
The AMO attends regular AEC meetings to report back on findings and outcomes of inspections.
Terms of Reference
In accordance with the Code (section 2.2.1), the DPIPWE AEC has established Terms of Reference which include provisions for AEC membership, consideration of proposals, monitoring of all activities involving animals, conflict resolution, and performing all other duties required by the Code of Practice.
The Terms of Reference (revised August 2014) are available to download: