There are many good reasons for writing a lay summary describing the objectives and underlying rationale of the study, so that non-scientists, animal carers and technologists can be involved in the earliest planning stages of animal studies, including the ethical review process. Animal care staff have often extensive experience in caring for, handling and conducting procedures on the species concerned, and in managing the equipment necessary to house and handle them. In addition, they know the strengths and limitations of the facility, its equipment and the competency of its staff. Involvement of such personnel at an early stage will also increase their motivation, sense of ownership and understanding of the critical points in a study. It may also unearth concerns about health and safety, or animal welfare issues, which can then be addressed before they become insurmountable. It is good practice to invite animal care staff to the very first meeting between a research group and the facility, so that they quickly become familiar with the background for the planned research, can raise fundamental questions about the topic (including any concerns they may have), and be informed of its potential benefits. The meeting will also be a good opportunity for initial discussions about any changes or additions that have to be made to the facility's routines and contingency plans.
Whilst it may be difficult for a research team to predict accurately when a project will be completed, an approximate timescale, with experimental procedures and the need for support indicated, should always be provided since this has practical, ethical and economic consequences. Many research studies are labour-intensive at specific times, for example during substance administration, sampling, surgery and necropsy. A clear division of labour between the facility staff and research group must be planned and appropriately timetabled before the study starts. This division of labour must include decisions on recording observations during the experiment and where these observations are to be stored, both during and after the experiment.
Pre-start, progress and wash-up meetings should be scheduled. Proper care for the animals must be provided throughout the animals’ lives. This may affect staffing levels during holidays and out-of-hours which may have to be compensated, and which will necessitate an analysis of the availability of suitably trained staff at these times. Other details, such as the disposal of surplus animals, should also be discussed.
Division of the costs involved will be an important part of this work. In order to avoid disagreement about covering unexpected costs and other economic problems, which may result in compromises of animal welfare or health and safety, the funding of all stages of a project should be disclosed and discussed, along with any conditions attached to the funding. A contingency budget for unexpected events should be included. It is essential that sufficient resources are available to ensure that the animals’ welfare needs are met not just for the duration of the project but also for their lives before and afterwards, Sufficient funds must be available to conduct the research at the required level of scientific rigour, to avoid animal wastage. An assessment of the overall funding requirements of the project is an essential part of planning animal research.
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