Introduction to Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees
An MSMR Continuing Education Course
What Is an IACUC and Why Is It Important?
At its simplest, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is a self-regulating entity established by an institution that uses laboratory animals for research or instruction. The IACUC oversees and evaluates all aspects of the institution’s animal care and use program and periodically performs inspections of animal housing and procedure facilities. IACUCs are mandated by US law for most organizations that have research animals.
Certain categories of members (e.g., a scientist who is experienced in animal research) must be part of an IACUC. The regulation also states the minimum frequency with which the committee must meet and outlines its significant powers and responsibilities.
IACUCs operate at the intersection of ethics, law, good animal care and good science. They are charged with assuring that the institution’s own animal use policies are followed, along with regulatory requirements at the Federal, state and local levels.
What Is a Community Member’s Role in the IACUC?
One of the positions mandated on an IACUC is a Non-affiliated Member, usually called the Community Member, because he or she represents the broad interests of the local community in approrpiate and humane animal care and use. The Community Member is a volunteer and may not have any fiduciary relationship with the Institution (e.g., cannot be an employee, former employee, contractor, close relative of an employee, etc.).
A Community Member usually is not a scientist: so documents such as standard operating procedures and research or teaching protocols will have to be written in a way that non-scientists can understand. The scientists and specialists will have to be able to explain in non-specialized language how the animals are going to acquired, housed and fed, what procedures they’ll be subject to and what their veterinary care will be. Until the Community Member is satisfied with their written materials, the IACUC generally won’t approve.
The ideal Community Member is interested in animals, interested in leading edge biomedical research and willing to ask questions.
To learn a lot more about IACUCs, pertinent laws and regulations, and the work of Community Members, go to this MSMR page for IACUC resources.
How does our on-line training program work?
The program consists of six lessons, one each week for six weeks. You can complete the lesson and its associated exercise at any time during the week. The instructor will have on-line office hours/chat session each week: you’ll receive the schedule at the beginning of the course. Successful completion of each weekly module is required before you can progress to the next module. When you successfully finish all six lessons, you will receive a Certificate of Completion. Current and prospective Community (Non-affiliated) Members will especially benefit from this course, but anyone who wants to know more about the IACUC and its rights, roles and responsibilities can benefit from this training.