Research Integrity and Compliance

Applying for Animal Research Ethics Procedure

Policy Code: RS1923

Purpose

The purpose of this document is to guide researchers (including students undertaking research) and teaching staff of Federation University and Federation Training through the Animal Ethics application process, in accordance with current Commonwealth, State and Territory legislation.

The Animal Ethics Committee is appointed by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation).  The Committee’s primary responsibility is to ensure that all staff and students involved in the care and use of animals are compliant with current legislative requirements.  The use of animals for research and teaching must be ethically justified, provide for the welfare of animals and incorporate the principles of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement.

Scope

This procedure applies to:

  • All staff, including sessional staff, employed by the University, Federation Training, or any controlled entity;
  • All persons, including Adjunct and Honorary staff, engaged in research under the auspices of the University, Federation Training, or any controlled entity;
  • All students of the University who engage in research and/or research related activities, related to their studies, while enrolled at the University.

Any teaching programs or research projects at Federation University or Federation Training that involve animals must not commence without prior written approval from the Federation University Animal Ethics Committee.

Definitions

Term Definition
Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) A University Committee established in accordance with the Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes 8th edition, to oversee and approve animal use in research.
Application A request for approval from an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) to carry out a research project or teaching activity. An application may be for commencement of a project or teaching activity, or an amendment to an approved project.
Approved A review outcome that grants approval for a project to commence.
Amendment Request

Any proposed change or variation to an approved project must be submitted to the AEC for assessment and approval prior to implementation of the change. This includes any amendment to activity including:

  • Technique, procedure, location, change in number of animals involved etc.
  • Change to personnel, or Principal researcher. 
  • Extension to the approved research period (max one year extension to animal research projects).
Approved with comment A review outcome that grants approval for a project to commence, but with comment from the relevant Committee
Approval Withheld An approval outcome used in relation to a project application which requires that ethical issues be satisfactorily addressed and the application resubmitted to the relevant Committee before the project can commence.
Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes 8th Edition (2013) Provides guidelines for the ethical use of animals in research and teaching, and outlines the requirements for the function of an institutional Animal Ethics Committee. Generally referred to as ‘the Code’.
ARC Australian Research Council.
Compliance Acting in accordance with the relevant Code, National Statement and/or Regulation, and the Standard Conditions of Approval.
Executive Committee An executive of the AEC, formed to approve minor amendments and other matters not requiring full Committee attendance.
Gene Technology Act The nationally consistent legislative scheme for gene technology is comprised of the Commonwealth Gene Technology Act 2000 and Gene Technology Regulations 2001, and corresponding State and Territory legislation. Generally referred to as ‘the Act’
GM Genetically Modified
GMO Genetically Modified Organisms. In Australia, all dealings with live and viable genetically modified organisms (GMOs), including import, are illegal unless authorised under the Gene Technology Act.
Governing Body The Governing body refers to the National Health and Medical Research Council/ Australian Research Council
IBC Institutional Biosafety Committee, a Federation University committee established in accordance with the Office of Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) for the purpose of assessing any research project involving genetically modified material.
Incident/Adverse/Unexpected event Any outcome that may have a negative impact on a participant, the welfare of animals, or the researcher, and was not foreseen in the approved project. It is one of the standard conditions of approval that any adverse unexpected incident be formally reported to the AEC.
Monitoring The process of verifying that the conduct of research conforms to the approved proposal.
NGO Non-Government Organisation
NHMRC National Health and Medical Research Council – also referred to as ‘the Governing Body’, is Australia’s leading expert body promoting the development and maintenance of public and individual health standards.
NLRD Notifiable Low Risk Dealings (NLRDs) are activities with GMOs undertaken in containment (ie: not released into the environment) that have been assessed as posing low risk to the health and safety of people and the environment provided certain risk management conditions are met.
Non-Compliance Failure or refusal by researcher/s to act in accordance with the Standard Conditions of Approval for their project, respond to the directions of the Animal Ethics Committee, or be in breach of the Act or the Code.
Not Approved A review outcome for a project that has not been given Committee approval to commence.
OGTR Office of the Gene Technology Regulator - National Regulatory Scheme for Genetically Modified Organisms has the specific responsibility to protect the health and safety of people, and to protect the environment, by identifying risk posed by or as a result of gene technology.
Provisional Approval A review outcome that grants approval for a project to commence subject to particular issues being addressed to the satisfaction of the relevant Committee.  The project must not commence until final approval is granted.
Risk The function of the magnitude of harm and the probability that it will occur.
Special Conditions These conditions apply in relation to suspended projects, or to projects where approval has been withdrawn. Where approval has been withdrawn, a researcher must not continue the research, and must comply with any special conditions required by the AEC.
Standard Conditions of Approval

Standard conditions outlined in the Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes which must be adhered to, in order to ensure continued approval for projects involving animal research.

These are listed on the Approval notification for easy reference.

Terms of Reference Terms of Reference show how the scope of the Committees will be defined, developed, and verified. Generally referred to as ToR.

The Act

 

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986, referred to as ‘the Act’ is legislation that consists of the principal Act, principal Regulations and a large number of Codes of Practice.
The Act The Gene Technology Act 2000 referred to as the act is the nationally consistent legislative scheme for gene technology, and is comprised of the Commonwealth Gene Technology Act 2000 and Gene Technology Regulations 2001, and corresponding State and Territory legislation.
The Code

Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes 2013, referred to as ‘the Code’, is a mandatory Code protecting the welfare of animals, and is legislated by the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1986.

It is this Code of practice that Ethics applications must adhere to, and all researchers and teachers named on any animal ethics application, must be familiar with this document.

Variation (to a project)

Any proposed amendment or modifications researchers might wish to make to an approved project. All variations/amendment requests require assessment and approval from the AEC prior to implementation of the change. They may include:

  • Technique, procedure, location, change in number of animals involved etc
  • Change to personnel 
  • Extension to the approved research period (max one year extension to animal research projects.

Actions

In accordance with the Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes, 8th Edition (2013), all activities that involve the care and use of animals, whether for a teaching program or for scientific research purposes must:

  • Be subject to ethical review, approval and monitoring by the AEC;
  • Commence only after approval has been granted by the AEC;
  • Be conducted in accordance with the AEC approval;
  • Cease if approval from the AEC has expired, is suspended or is withdrawn.

All those involved in the care and use of animals for scientific purposes must be aware of the relevant Commonwealth, State and Territory legislation and guidelines, as well as all Federation University Policy, Procedures and Guidelines.

1. Applying for Approval from the Animal Ethics Committee for a new project

Researchers should complete the following steps to gain AEC approval for a Standard Application:

  ACTIVITY RESPONSIBILITY STEPS
A. Complete an application form

Principal Researcher

Research Team

  • Read the information provided on the application form, and be familiar with areas of the Code relevant to your project.
  • Be familiar with any relevant Standard Operating Procedures (listed on the AEC website) and make reference to these within the application.
  • In the case of an application for a student research project, the Principal Supervisor must sign off as the Principal Researcher.  The Principal Researcher must maintain responsibility for the project.
  • Supervisors must mentor research students throughout the development of their animal ethics application and must provide guidance throughout the application process. 
  • The Ethics Officer within Research Services can be consulted in regards to the administrative aspect of an application.
  • Ensure the application form is fully completed and signed by the entire Research Team.

Please note: If any Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) will be involved in the project, the researcher/s must also submit an application to the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC).

B. Attach supplementary documentation

Principal Researcher

Research Team

Attach copies of any required supplementary information.  Examples of documentation that may be required:

  • Evidence of approval from external agencies (NB: Some external agencies will only grant approval after AEC approval is obtained.  In this instance, the AEC will list this as a condition of approval, and evidence of this approval must be submitted to the AEC before the project commences).
  • Evidence of training undertaken by researchers in order to competently undertake required procedures.
  • Monitoring sheets/daily check form, for animals held in care.  These should cover all observations regarding food, water, breathing, signs of dehydration, abnormal activity, surgery, recovery, posture etc.
C. Obtain approval from Faculty/Centre delegate

Principal Researcher

Research Team

Head of School

Deputy Head of School

Associate Dean, Research

Ethics Coordinator

Applications must be reviewed, signed and approved for submitting to the AEC by the relevant staff within the Faculty:

  • Principal Researcher AND Research Team; then
  • Head of School; or
  • Deputy Head of School; or
  • Associate Dean of Research; or
  • Faculty Ethics Coordinator.
D. Submit the application for informal review (optional)

Principal Researcher

Research Team

  • Should they wish to, researchers are able to submit the application to Research Services at least two weeks prior to the due date (as advertised on the AEC website), and request informal review and feedback from the AEC.  The AEC will endeavor to provide the applicant with early feedback to expedite potential approval of the application, but whether such feedback can be practically provided depends on the workload of the AEC.
  • The changed recommended in the feedback from the AEC must then be made, and the amended application must be submitted to Research Services by the due date for the next meeting.

Please note: This earlier review and feedback does not constitute approval or otherwise by the AEC.

E. Submit the application to the AEC for formal review

Principal Researcher

Research Team

  • Ensure application has been reviewed and includes all required signatures.
  • Submit one completed and signed hard copy of the application, including all attachments, to Research Services.
  • In addition, email the application, with all attachments, to Research Services research.ethics@federation.edu.au

Please note:  Ensure both the hard copy and the electronic copy of the application are submitted to Research Services by the due date and time.  Late submissions will be carried over until the following AEC meeting.

2. Requesting Urgent AEC Review

Researchers should complete the following steps to request acceptance of an application for urgent review:

  ACTIVITY RESPONSIBILITY STEPS
A. Submit request for urgent review

Principal Researcher

Research Team

  • Review of an ethics application with an urgent deadline is possible at times, but will only be considered under exceptional circumstances.  A case justifying such a measure is required.
  • Requests for urgent review should be directed to the Ethics Officer within Research Services.
  • The AEC Chair will determine if the application will be accepted for urgent review at an additional meeting of the AEC.
  • The resulting additional meeting may be cancelled if the required Committee quorum is not achieved.
  • The AEC are not obligated to be available for an additional meeting.

Please note:  Missing the deadline for a scheduled meeting will not be considered exceptional circumstances.

Outcomes

A teaching program or research project involving the use of animals cannot proceed without official written approval from the AEC.

When the application has been reviewed by the AEC, the applicants will receive notification from the AEC of one of the following outcomes:

OUTCOME

WHAT THE OUTCOME MEANS

STEPS

Approved Full approval (Approved) allows the applicants to commence the teaching program or research project on the commencement date outlined in the notification. Adherence to the Standard Conditions of Approval is mandatory to maintain approval status.
Approved with Comment

The applicants should note the comments made by the Committee.

 

Approved with Comment is deemed as full approval and allows the applicants to commence the project on the commencement date outlined in the notification. Adherence to the Standard Conditions of Approval is mandatory to maintain approval status.

Provisional Approval

The applicants must address the provisions outlined in the notification, using a copy of the notification as a cover sheet, as it lists the project title and reference number. The response to each of the issues raised should be addressed point by point, clearly explaining how each of the matters have been addressed. The applicants should also supply a copy of any supporting documentation requested by the Committee, or that has been amended.

 

The Ethics officer will forward the applicant’s response to the AEC Executive before issuing the researcher with a notification of the outcome. The Chair will determine if approval from the full Committee or just the Executive Committee is required, and whether the former can be determined by circulation. The project should not commence until full approval has been received in writing.

Approval Withheld

The applicants must address the issues outlined in the notification and submit this information to another AEC meeting.  The issues will need to be addressed in the form of an email, letter or memo listing the project reference number, a response to each of the issues raised and clearly explaining how each of the matters has been addressed.

The applicants should also supply a copy of any supporting documentation the Committee has requested.

The Committee will assess the applicants response to the issues raised and a notification of outcome will be issued.

Not Approved

This will mean the AEC considers that the issues regarding the project are so major that the project cannot proceed in its current form.

Generally, when an application is not approved, the applicant will be provided with information as to why the AEC rejected the application.

The applicants will then be required to submit a new application to a subsequent AEC meeting (should they choose to pursue the initial research).

The new application will need to be significantly superior to the original application and address the major issues outlined in the Not Approved notification. The Committee will assess the new application, without reference to the original application, as per the standard process.

Standard Conditions of Approval

The conduct of each approved project must comply with the Standard Conditions of Approval, and any specific conditions imposed by the AEC.

These Standard Conditions are the conditions outlined in the Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes, which must be adhered to, in order to ensure continued approval for projects involving animal research.

Failure to abide by these conditions, and any specific conditions mandated by the AEC, may result in suspension or discontinuation of approval and/or disciplinary action.

Reporting and Monitoring

The Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes requires Animal Ethics Committees to monitor research projects for which they have given ethical approval in order to ensure that they confirm to the protocol approved.

The principal reason for monitoring research projects in accordance with the Code is to ensure that the activity is not jeopardising the wellbeing of animals.

Submission of the following reports is required for all approved projects:

  ACTIVITY RESPONSIBILITY STEPS
A.

Submit request Amendment/Variations to Project

(if applicable)

Principal Researcher

Research Team

Any proposed variations or modifications applicants might wish to make to an approved project must be submitted to the AEC for consideration and approval

The Amendment/Variation template combines all changes to any aspect of an approved project, including:

  • Amendment to activity/animal use
  • Change of personnel
  • Extension to project.

All amendments must be approved, prior to implementing the changes.

B.

Submit Incident Report form

(if applicable)

Principal Researcher

Research Team

  • Incidents, adverse effects and unforeseen events must be reported immediately to Research Services.
  • Failure to do so will result in discontinuation of approval and/or disciplinary action.  Principal Researchers are responsible for ensuring that these incidents are reported.
  • Principal Researchers must also provide details of steps (proposed or taken) to deal with such incidents.
C. Submit Annual Report form

Principal Researcher

Research Team

It is a condition of approval that the Principal Researcher submits an annual report at the beginning of each year (prior to 15 January) from project commencement unto the conclusion of the project.  The report must be submitted on the relevant template, be signed by all applicants, and provide the following information:

  • Details of progress to date;
  • Maintenance and security of records;
  • Compliance with the approved protocol;
  • Compliance with any conditions of approval;
  • Details of any unexpected adverse effects of the research on animals which may have occurred (as previously reported on Adverse Incident report form) and of;
  • Steps taken to deal with these (as previously reported on Adverse Incident report form);
  • Changes in the research protocol (as previously reported on Amendment form); and
  • Any other problems relating to the conduct of the research.

Failure to complete and return an annual report by the due date

may lead to suspension or withdrawal of ethics approval.

D. Submit Final Report

Principal Researcher

Research Team

It is a condition of approval that the Principal Researcher submits a final report within one month of completion/discontinuation of a project.  This final report will include:

  • A summary of the results of the project;
  • Whether the aims of the project were achieved;
  • Maintenance and security of records;
  • Compliance with the approved protocol; and
  • Compliance with any conditions of approval.

The final report must also contain:

  • Details of any unexpected adverse effects of the research on animals which may have occurred (as previously reported on Adverse Incident report form);
  • Steps taken to deal with these (as previously reported on Adverse Incident report form);
  • Changes in the research protocol (as previously reported on Amendment form); and
  • Any other problems relating to the conduct of the project.

Failure to complete and return a final report by the due date may lead to suspension or withdrawal of ethics approval.

Auditing of Approved Projects

In line with the Code, the AEC will conduct internal auditing in relation to approved projects.  The internal audit process may be carried out in a variety of ways:

  • Researchers may be invited to attend a meeting of the Animal Ethics Committee to discuss their project and annual report, to provide evidence of the work they have completed to date including documentation and to answer any queries the Committee might have regarding the project;
  • A representative of the AEC may visit field sites, housing facilities and laboratories to inspect facilities;
  • In addition to discussing the conduct of a project with the researchers the audit team may inspect facilities for storing data securely, examine the way data is being maintained including who has access, and consider the way risk and any unexpected outcomes have been managed in the project.

Suspension or Discontinuation of Approved Projects

Where the Chair of the Animal Ethics Committee is satisfied that circumstances have arisen such that a research project is not being or cannot be conducted in accordance with the approved protocol, including any conditions of approval, the AEC may withdraw approval and recommend that the research project be discontinued, suspended or that other necessary action be taken.

A researcher must not continue the research if ethics approval has been withdrawn and must comply with any special conditions required by the AEC.

Complaints and Appeals

Complaints concerning the care and use of animals by the institution, including conscientious objection in the case of teaching activities

In the event that a person is dissatisfied with the use of animals in a particular experiment or teaching exercise,the following procedures are to be followed:

  ACTIVITY RESPONSIBILITY STEPS
A. Submit complaint Aggrieved person A written submission detailing the reasons for dissatisfaction is to be submitted by the aggrieved person to the AEC.
B. AEC considers complaint and provides response AEC The AEC must consider the matters raised in the submission and respond in writing to those matters within 10 working days.  The AEC may confirm or alter any decision previously made in relation to the relevant research proposal or proposed use of animals in research or teaching by special meeting.
C. Aggrieved person considers response and accepts response or refers to DVC (R&I) Aggrieved person If the aggrieved person is not satisfied with the AEC’s written response, they may advise the DVC (R&I) in writing that they have an irreconcilable difference with the AEC and must append a copy of both the submission forwarded to the AEC and the written response from the AEC.
D. DVC (R&I) reviews matter (if required) DVC (R&I) In reviewing the matter referred, the DVC (R&I) may invite the participation of an appropriately experienced person external to the University or member of an animal ethics committee external to the University or any other persons to assist in the deliberations.
E. DVC (R&I) provides advice DVC (R&I) The DVC (R&I) will provide written advice to both the AEC and the aggrieved person regarding the review of the matter.  The DVC (R&I) may require the AEC to reconsider their decision or procedures or may endorse the decision of the AEC.
F. AEC considers advice of DVC (R&I) AEC In the event that the AEC is required to reconsider their decision or procedures, the AEC must consider any advice given by the DVC (R&I).
G. AEC makes final decision AEC Having considered any advice given by the DVC (R&I) the AEC has ultimate authority for making a final decision on the matter referred.

Complaints concerning the process for independent external review

The activities of the AEC undergo an independent external review every four years.  The review is undertaken by The Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR).

Should a researcher or the AEC have a complaint or concern in relation to the process followed or the outcome of the review, the Ethics Officer should be contacted in the first instance.  The following procedures will be followed:

  ACTIVITY RESPONSIBILITY STEPS
A. Submit complaint Aggrieved person If required, a written submission detailing the complaint or concern is to be submitted by the aggrieved person to the Ethics Officer.
B. Ethics Officer refers complaint to DVC (R&I) Ethics Officer The complaint or concern will be referred to the DVC (R&I) for consideration.  After this consideration, the DVC (R&I) may write to DEDJTR with a request that they revisit the area of concern.
C. DVC (R&I) provides advice DVC (R&I) The DVC (R&I) will provide written advice to the AEC/aggrieved person regarding the review of the matter.

Non-compliance with the relevant Codes

Complaints or concerns relating to non-compliance involving the use of animals should be directed to the Chair of the Animal Ethics Committee (via the Ethics Officer within Research Services) in the first instance. Where complaints or grievances identify instances of non-compliance with/breaches of:

  • The Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes; or
  • The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research,

the following procedure will be followed:

  ACTIVITY RESPONSIBILITY STEPS
A. Ethics approval suspended AEC Chair The AEC Chair will formally advise the Principal Researcher that ethical approval for the project has been suspended.  If applicable, urgent animal welfare concerns will be identified and appropriate action is to be taken to alleviate animal suffering or distress.
B. Research Integrity Coordinator to be notified AEC Chair

The complaint of non-compliance will be immediately referred to the Research Integrity Coordinator and the DVC (R&I) by the AEC Chair for resolution under the provisions of the University’s Research Integrity & Misconduct Procedure.

Please note: Where complaints allege misconduct that falls outside the description of ‘research misconduct’ (as described in the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research) the complaint will be handled in accordance with institutional processes for dealing with other forms of misconduct.

C. Relevant regulatory authorities will be advised Research Integrity Coordinator If required, the relevant regulatory authorities (e.g. NHMRC or ARC) will be advised upon receipt of the complaint.

Responsibility

  • Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation) (as the Approval Authority) is responsible for monitoring the implementation, outcomes and scheduled review of this procedure.
  • Director – Research Services (as the Policy Sponsor) is responsible for maintaining the content of this procedure as delegated by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation).
  • Research Services is responsible for the administration support for the maintenance of this procedure as directed by Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation).

Promulgation

The Applying for Animal Research Ethics Procedure will be communicated throughout the University community in the form of:

  1. an Announcement Notice via FedNews website and on the ‘Recently Approved Documents’ page on the ‘Policies, Procedures and Forms @ the University’ website to alert the University-wide community of the approved Procedure;

Implementation

The Applying for Animal Research Ethics Procedure will be implemented throughout the University via:

  1. an Announcement Notice via FedNews website and on the ‘Recently Approved Documents’ page on the ‘Policies, Procedures and Forms @ the University’ website to alert the University-wide community of the approved Procedure;
  2. Staff information sessions
  3. Training sessions

Records Management

Document Title Location Responsible Officer Minimum Retention Period
AEC Application forms Research Services Director, Research Services 7 years
AEC Approval Notification Forms Research Services Director, Research Services Permanent

AEC Amendment Request Forms incorporating Project amendments, Change of Personnel and Extension

requests

Research Services Director, Research Services 7 years
Annual/Final Project Report Forms Research Services Director, Research Services 7 years
Incident Report Forms Research Services Director, Research Services 7 years
Complaints/Misconduct Report Forms Research Services Director, Research Services 7 years