The independent chair appointed to investigate animal research allegations has announced his committee's scope and its membership.
Professor Steve Brown, the independent chair appointed to investigate allegations regarding the use of animals in medical research at Imperial College London, has announced his committee’s scope and its membership.
Professor Brown, Director of the Medical Research Council’s Mammalian Genetics Unit at Harwell, was asked by Imperial in April to lead an investigation after the College received the allegations about animal research via a newspaper. His committee comprises scientists, clinical vets and experts.
The committee will investigate and assess the culture and approach to animal care and welfare at the College. In parallel to this inquiry the College is working closely with the Home Office, which is conducting an investigation focused on the specific allegations, as required under its statutory obligations.
Once it has concluded its work the committee chaired by Professor Brown will provide a report to the College, detailing its findings and, if appropriate, any recommendations for improvement. The committee is expected to report in three to four months and its findings and the College’s response will be made publicly available.
The investigation’s scope and proposed terms of reference include the following:
1. The committee will investigate and assess the culture and approach to animal care and welfare at Imperial College, including areas such as:
- Operational procedures
- Reporting structures
- Supervisory practices
- Compliance monitoring
- Ethical review
The committee’s investigations will take into account, but not be limited by, the Home Office’s investigations and Imperial College’s consideration of the incidents alleged by BUAV.
2. The committee will conduct interviews, visit facilities and explore with stakeholders involved with animal research at Imperial College the approach to the design, implementation and local regulation of animal research. In so doing, the committee will aim to identify areas of best practice and any areas that fall short of best practice.
3. The committee will provide a report to the College, elaborating on any areas where practice falls short of standards considered to be at the forefront of animal research and animal welfare standards in the UK. The report will deliver, where appropriate, detailed recommendations for improvements across relevant structures and practices involved in animal research at the College. The committee’s recommendations may also encompass advice on areas of priority to address, as well as potential structures and solutions for improvements.
The committee’s membership is as follows:
- Professor Steve Brown, Director of the Medical Research Council’s Mammalian Genetics Unit at Harwell (Chair)
- Professor Paul Flecknell, Newcastle University, who is responsible for the overall management of Newcastle University’s research animal facilities
- Mr Neil Yates, Director of the Biosupport Unit, University of Nottingham
- Professor Ian Jackson, Head of Medical and Developmental Genetics, Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh
- Dr Vicky Robinson, Chief Executive, National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research
- Dr Maggie Leggett, Head of Public Engagement, Bristol University
The College has also taken further action to ensure that all staff involved in using animals in research fully understand their responsibilities within the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act. These include:
- Running compulsory refresher training on key elements of animal research, to supplement the comprehensive development programme already in place.
- Developing a quality assurance programme to ensure that Imperial meets the highest possible standards in its use of animals in research.
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