Responsibility for the ethical conduct of research and testing rests with the researchers and others who use and
care for the animals, and so the ERB also has an important educational role to play in helping to create a "culture
of care and conscience" within institutions (CIOMS-ICLAS 2012). This is easier to achieve when there is an
institutional forum for consideration of ethical aspects of animal use, which can help to ensure that "everyone plays
their part in practising 'ethical science'" (Jennings and Smith 2012). It is therefore worthwhile noting that even in
countries that have no regulatory requirement for local ERBs, institutions often voluntarily set up their own review
processes to help achieve this goal.
Participants in the ERB
Regulations lay down minimum requirements for membership of ERBs which usually must include animal care
staff, one or more veterinarians, and scientists. Some jurisdictions also require representatives of the local
community (e.g. the USA, Australia) and animal welfare organisations (e.g. Sweden, where half the members
must be "laymen, some representing animal welfare organisations", CODEX 2013). However, to be effective,
ERBs need to include a wide variety of participants who together provide a comprehensive range of knowledge,
competencies and perspectives and, at an institutional level, a balance of different levels of seniority. A good ERB
will therefore also include people with expertise in each of the 3Rs, experimental design, animal welfare, education
and training, ethics and relevant scientific fields.
Participants also need to have the personal qualities required to contribute to discussions (see Chapter 1 page 9)
so the composition of an ERB needs careful thought. In particular, there is a need for a strong, impartial chairperson
to "make sure that the focus is on outcomes, the process is efficient" and in particular to "create a supportive,
inclusive environment that will encourage open and forthright discussion" (RSPCA/LASA 2010).
Authority of the ERB
ERBs need to ensure that their decisions and recommendations are taken forward and implemented, that conditions
of project authorisation and codes of practice are complied with, and that laboratory animals are always treated with
appropriate care and respect.
Some countries have government inspectorates and penalties set out in law to help detect and deal with noncompliance
(e.g. these are requirements of EU law). In others, institutions alone bear responsibility for monitoring
compliance and dealing with cases of non-compliance (e.g. Australia, where in addition to their own day-to-day
responsibilities, "Institutions must also ensure that an independent external review is conducted at least every four
years to assess ... compliance" (Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council 2013).
Whatever regulatory system is in place, it is vital that institutions themselves have rigorous processes for monitoring
animal welfare, detecting non-compliance, encouraging and enabling staff to express any concerns, ensuring that
the concerns are properly addressed, and generally fostering a "culture of care" in which high ethical standards of
animal care and use are the norm (see Chapter 6). An institutional ERB provides an ideal driver in this respect.
For institutional ERBs
Research institutions vary considerably in size, in the nature and diversity of their scientific studies and animal work,
and in their organisation and management. If you are participating in an institutional ERB, it is important to gain an
overview of the institution"s research interests, including why and how animals are used, and a feel for the local
culture, including the priority given to animal welfare and the 3Rs.
It can take time to acquire a strong sense of these aspects, particularly when coming from outside
the institution. Discussion of the points overleaf with other participants in the ERB can help build
up a picture of the animal work. It is also helpful to visit the animal facilities to see the animals, view
procedures where possible and talk to staff (see Chapter 7)