Proper animal care is the highest priority of WSU’s Animal Care and Use Program.
WSU is committed to continuous improvement in all aspects of the university’s Animal Care and Use program, including animals used in teaching, research, or any university activity. The university maintains a strong commitment to high standards of animal care.
Accordingly, the WSU Office of Research commissioned two external reviews of the animal care oversight and compliance program in 2016. These reviews evaluated the program’s status and developed specific recommendations for improvement. Conducting external reviews of WSU’s Animal Care and Use Program reflects best practices, and enables the experience and effective techniques developed at other universities to be readily incorporated into the WSU program.
Leading veterinarians and animal care specialists from the University of Washington, Texas A&M Union Station, and the University of Rochester conducted the first external review. This review was primarily technical in nature. The National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) conducted the second review, which focused on administrative aspects of WSU programs, including organization, staffing, and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) protocol management.
The reviews yielded effective recommendations that complement recent improvements in the WSU animal oversight and compliance program. Improvements made previously include enhanced support for the IACUC and the Office of the Campus Veterinarian (OCV), transition of IACUC protocol submission and review process from paper to a digital format, and updates to the IACUC non-compliance policy.
Summaries of the review recommendations and their implementation status are discussed below. Implementation of the review recommendations is underway. A WSU faculty and staff advisory committee, comprised of individuals representing each college’s research community, will review major proposed improvements to the Animal Care and Use Program prior to implementation.
Staffing and Organization
The IACUC, OCV and Office of Research Assurances (ORA) require additional staffing and support. Although the Office of Research had added staff to OCV and ORA prior to the external review, the review recommended additional personnel be added to support the various functions and responsibilities of the animal use support program. Another key recommendation is the creation of a distinct program within ORA with sufficient staff to support the various functions and responsibilities of the IACUC.
WSU will establish a distinct animal use support program within ORA, with enhanced staffing over the current level. This includes the transfer of various administrative and oversight duties currently conducted by OCV to the new animal use support program.
Protocol Review Process
The reviews identified several actions needed to improve the IACUC protocol review and amendment process, including in particular the use of electronic forms. Implementing these recommendations will improve the efficiency of IACUC operations and promote an improved culture of compliance.
The development of a new online form and associated supporting database system was initiated prior to the reviews, and is now in the testing phase. The new form will be available for initial use by the animal research community by April 2017. Input from the research community will be used to insure the system is refined and successfully implemented. The creation of the animal use program in ORA and additional professional staff for OCV will also improve IACUC efficiency. WSU is also continuing to improve the IACUC and OCV’s websites to insure guidance and support information is accessible and current.
Education and outreach opportunities
The reviews identified a need to increase opportunities for education and outreach for both new and existing programs. Specific areas for improvement identified include educating investigators on new IACUC policies such as the veterinary verification and consultation amendment process, ensuring all personnel are aware of the reporting requirements for outside agencies, and ensuring adequate training is provided to lab personnel responsible for conducting the procedures specified in protocols. Several recommendations reflect the need for improved strategic planning and on-going evaluations of program performance.
These recommendations will generally be implemented following internal review by the WSU advisory committee.
The reviews both recommended centralizing the management of WSU vivariums. Centralization would help to decrease redundant staff, facilitate reporting, and provide more consistent, standardized animal care.
The University is examining detailed options for vivarium centralization under the oversight of OCV.
Policies & Procedures
The review identified several policies and program areas that require improvement and recommended the creation of a faculty and staff advisory council to participate in this process. The review also identified the need for systems for improved strategic planning and on-going evaluations of program performance. Policy issues identified for improvement include adding personnel or students to protocols, agricultural research related policies, and protocol non-compliance. Other areas recommended for improvement include comparison of implemented IACUC protocols to funded grants, hazardous agents procedures, and post approval monitoring.
IACUC, ORA and OCV representatives, with input from the faculty/staff advisory committee, will implement the program and policy changes recommended above.