This page offers a Quick Start Guide on how to promote a Culture of Care at a research animal facility. It is under development (January 2021).
The aim of the Guide is to help anyone who wishes to review or improve the culture of care at their institution. Resources are available on a separate page.
Key steps are:
- Ensuring managerial commitment
- Encouraging dialogue between staff members
- Rewarding individuals who have made special contributions, especially if this has been pro-active
A vision statement can be an effective means of focusing attention, setting out ideals and encouraging regular evaluation of the progress made. Both the Three Rs and the wellbeing of the staff should be mentioned. The Animal Welfare Body (or similar local committee) should be involved, since they are in an ideal position to drive the culture forward. The statement should be supported by senior management and prominently displayed. Facilities should also contact their national or local associations for animal care staff.
Indicators of a culture of care should be established, and staff should be encouraged to provide examples. These might include:
- Internal surveys using indicators defined at the facility. These will need to be adjusted as the culture develops. The 'indicators of low-level concerns' described by ASRU in the UK (see Appendix A of their guidance) may be helpful when developing a survey.
- Newsletters with a regular column on ‘Three Rs news'
- Three Rs awards (see this page for ideas)
- Symposium with duo-talks: the researcher talks about the science of a project, and the animal technologist talks about techniques and animal care in the project. Such talks give the techs the confidence they need to share their expertise and knowledge.
- Joint meetings for senior animal technologists at neighbouring institutions
- Participation in the annual International Laboratory Animal Technician Week
- An ‘animal consultation hour’ when animal care staff can confidentially voice issues or concerns about individual animals or projects
- Evidence of high morale, close cooperation and mutual respect, for example between care staff, veterinarians and management (see a 10-point plan for encouraging researchers to refine their protocols)
- The addition of material about the Three Rs and a Culture of Care to staff training material.
A "checklist" for assessing the current situation might include looking for evidence of the following positive features:
- Appropriate behaviour and attitude towards animal research from all key personnel.
- Openness of all staff: keen and able to answer questions.
- Knowledge and awareness of the Three Rs.*
- A corporate expectation of high standards with respect to the legal, welfare, Three Rs and ethical aspects of the use of animals, operated and endorsed at all levels throughout the establishment.
- Shared responsibility (without loss of individual responsibility) towards animal care, welfare and use.
- A pro-active approach towards improving standards, rather than merely reacting to problems when they arise.
- Effective communication throughout the establishment on animal welfare, care and use issues and the relation of these to good science. This includes regular meetings between researchers and animal care staff.
- An understanding of the importance of compliance.
- Those with specified roles know their responsibility and tasks.
- Care staff and veterinarians are respected and listened to and their roles and work are supported throughout the establishment.
- An established and well-understood procedure for "whistle-blowing"
- All voices and concerns at all levels throughout the organisation are heard and dealt with positively.
Conversely, evidence of the following may suggest that the culture should be improved:
- poor attitude of staff, e.g. "no time", “talk to my deputy”, or how they judge the importance of inspection
- unwillingness to contribute to discussions on animal care and use
- too many people having access to restricted areas
- project leader being too distant or removed from research workers and care staff
- staff not encouraged to contribute, or listened to
- care staff/junior researchers not aware of the project details e.g. with regard to care, management of adverse effects
- key people elusive
- resistance to change/introduction of refinement and improvements
- lack of acknowledgement that improvements are possible
- failure to implement establishment practices; ineffective management
- absence of, or poor standard of, working practices
- lack of understanding of / poor engagement with animal welfare issues by scientists
- poor communication between scientists and care staff.
*This might include:
- strategies to minimise animal surplus
- strategies for sharing tissues
- implementation and ongoing refinement of humane end-points for specific projects
- the introduction of replacement methods
- the use of biostatisticians
Finally, here is a mnemonic to help remember the key elements of a good Culture of Care.
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