Unique Role of the Non-affiliated Member in the IACUC Process

As we have seen earlier [vide supra], a majority of the public supports the humane and appropriate use of animals in biomedical research, but has concerns about animal welfare in the process. For this reason, the IACUC system of oversight of the care and use of animals in science includes community representation. Under both the Animal Welfare Act and the Guide, every Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee must have at least one non- affiliated member, sometimes called an unaffiliated member or a community member, someone who is not affiliated with the research institution, and who is intended to represent the general community’s interests in the proper care and treatment of animals. A well-informed and active non-affiliated member can bring significant value to the committee’s deliberations by offering a lay perspective to the research under discussion. While the specific role of the non-affiliated member is not mandated in detail and may vary from institution to institution, he/she has equal status to all other committee members and participates in all IACUC activities, including:

    • attendance at all regular IACUC meetings;
    • participation in deliberations with inquiries about details and issues of concern that are not addressed by the institutional members of the committee;
    • critical review of written IACUC protocols;
    • service as a designated reviewer when appropriate; and
    • participation in semiannual facility inspections and program reviews.

A wide diversity of people from different backgrounds can serve as non-affiliated members. Non-affiliated members can come both from within and from outside the animal research community and vary greatly in their prior knowledge of issues addressed in IACUC review of animal research, although they cannot be laboratory animal users. Some may have expertise in ethics, including moral philosophers and theologians; others may be working or retired science educators or nurses who represent the interests of the community with a working knowledge of life science; still others may be attorneys or retired judges who bring an analytical bent to their participation on the IACUC. Whatever their background, non-affiliated members play a unique role by bringing particular knowledge and experience to enrich IACUC discussions and deliberations.