RMIT Animal Ethics Committee

Terms of Reference

1. Introduction

The purpose of this document is to set out the terms of reference of the RMIT University Animal Ethics Committee (AEC).

2. Purpose

The AEC has been established to ensure ethical review, approval and monitoring of animal care and use at RMIT, in accordance with the Australian Code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes 8th edition 2013 (Animal Code), the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (Code), and relevant legislation, regulations and guidelines.

The RMIT Animal Ethics Procedure outlines the steps and structures for the gaining and maintaining of animal ethics approval at RMIT.

3. Governing body

The AEC reports to the Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (Department). The AEC also reports to the governing body of the institution (Council) through the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) (DVC R&I) and RMIT Research Committee.

4. Responsibilities

The primary responsibility of the AEC is to ensure that all the projects and activities relating to the care and use of animals in research and teaching at RMIT are conducted in compliance with the Animal Code. In fulfilling this function, the AEC will ensure that all projects and activities are justified, provide for the welfare of animals and incorporate the principles of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement.

The AEC shall:

(i) review applications for projects relating to the care and use of animals at RMIT according to the requirements of the Animal Code, and approve only those projects or activities that are ethically acceptable;

(ii) review applications for activities associated with the care and management of animals in facilities, and approve only those activities that are ethically acceptable and conform with the Animal Code;

(iii) conduct follow up review of approved projects and activities, and ensure that these continue to be ethically acceptable and conform to the requirements of the Animal Code;

(iv) monitor the care and use of animals at RMIT, including housing conditions, practices and procedures;

(v) receive reports on and take appropriate actions regarding unexpected adverse events;

(vi) take appropriate actions regarding non-compliance;

(vii) approve guidelines for the care and use of animals on behalf of RMIT, including standard operating procedures;

(viii) provide advice and recommendations to the institution, including any measures required to ensure compliance with the Animal Code and input to RMIT University policies and procedures, which relate to animal ethics;

(ix) report on its operations to the institution (see Section 8. Reporting);

(x) require all members to declare conflicts of interest and manage these appropriately; and

(xi) undertake any other duties required of an AEC under the Code.

In discharging its responsibilities, the AEC may seek assistance of such experts, or regulatory and advisory bodies, as it chooses.

5. Composition

Membership

5.1 The membership of the AEC is prescribed by the Animal Code.

5.2 As per the Animal Code, the AEC will maintain a minimum membership of:

  • A Chairperson – appointed by the institution in accordance with Animal Code provisions;
  • (Category A) – a veterinarian with relevant experience and knowledge;
  • (Category B) – a suitably qualified researcher with recent and relevant experience in the use of animals for scientific purposes ;
  • (Category C) – a person with a demonstrated commitment to, and experience in, animal welfare and who is not employed or otherwise associated with RMIT, and who is not currently involved in animal research;
  • (Category D) – a community representative who is not employed or otherwise associated with RMIT, and has never been involved in the use of animals in scientific or teaching activities; and
  • A person responsible for the routine care of animals at RMIT.

5.3 An Animal Welfare Officer/s will also form part of the AEC membership.

5.4 Categories C and D will together represent at least one third of the membership.

5.5 The balance of membership will be in accordance with the provisions of the Animal Code.

5.6 AEC may invite any person to attend a meeting, to either provide expertise/advice, or act as an observer.

5.7 Members are expected to follow the AEC Committee Operating Procedures.

5.8 Members who are non-RMIT staff or students shall receive an honorarium for each meeting attended.

Term of appointment

5.9 All members of the AEC shall be appointed for a period of three years, and may be eligible for reappointment for a further three year period.

Indemnification

5.10 RMIT will provide all members with legal protection in respect of liabilities that may arise in the course of bona fide conduct of their duties.

6. Operating procedures

The operating procedures of the AEC are set out in the AEC Committee Operating Procedures.

7. Confidentiality

AEC documentation and proceedings shall be treated as confidential, although the AEC may disclose information, to appropriate internal or external bodies/persons, at its discretion.

8. Reporting

8.1 The AEC will assist RMIT University in submission of reports to the Department, as required.

8.2 The AEC will report to the RMIT Research Committee, at least quarterly, on matters including:

  • numbers and types of projects and activities reviewed and the outcomes of these reviews;
  • physical facilities for the care and use of animals at RMIT;
  • actions that have supported the educational and training needs of AEC members and people involved in the care and use of animals;
  • administrative or other difficulties experience; and
  • any matters that may affect RMIT’s ability to maintain compliance with the Animal Code.

8.3 The AEC will also submit an annual report to the RMIT Research Committee about animal ethics at RMIT during the preceding year.

Evaluation and review

8.4 The AEC shall evaluate its performance annually, with an emphasis upon continuous improvement in processes and operations.

9. Approval

The Animals Ethics Committee Terms of Reference were last approved by the DVC R&I on 21 July 2016.