Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I serve on the IACUC of our neighboring institution, Huge Teaching U. I don't think I am what the government has in mind when they ask for a "member of the community": a PhD holding animal researcher that has professional ties with the applicants.

In any case, they have a monthly deadline for new applications, there's a secure website where we can read the protocols and make comments, etc. This is the second meeting since I've been on the committee, and the second meeting they have scheduled in direct conflict with one of my courses. I dutifully read the protocols, gave them thought, and replied with a detailed, hopefully reasonable response. Then I e-mailed them in, and the committee met with my papers in hand.

This makes me really insecure. For one, I have no idea what level of rigor I am expected to meet. I know that I can't rubber stamp everything that comes through, nor can I reject everything on technicalities. But how tough of a review is it supposed to be?

Here's an example: one protocol called for doing a fairly invasive survival surgery on rats, using the rats for the experiment 24 hours later, then euthanizing them immediately at the conclusion of the experiment.
Some of my comments were
Minor: please include citations when you claim that these procedures are standard in the literature
Major: please include how post-operative pain will be controlled for the 27-29 hours post-surgery. I checked "not accept without revisions". I feel like I needed to know about the post-operative pain. Nitpicky? Harsh? Reasonable? Thorough?

In addition, without being present at the meeting, I have no idea if the committee even understood what I meant.

My fears were realized after I called the person in charge after they had met and asked about the discussion. She reported that the committee blew my comment off (my words) because the rats would be euthanized immediately after the experiment. "Right" I said, "but the animals will live for 27-29 hours after surgery before they are euthanized". "Oh," she said, "I don't think they got that". Me (internally): Hello?? The protocol was not vague.

Here's the kicker: the one I rejected? My mentor's.


  1. This JMHO about your request post-operative pain control protocols:
    In my experience, most IACUC protocols have a separate section on pain control, or at least specifically address how the investigator will deal with animals that show signs of pain or distress (not necessarily in the detailed description of survival surgery section). Was this the case? Or did they have no information about pain control at all?
    If they had *nothing* about it, then I would agree they must have a pain management procedure listed SOMEWHERE in their protocol (and no, you weren't being nitpicky or harsh.) It doesn't matter that the animals will eventually be euthanized, they still could be in pain or distress.

    But if they do have pain management methodology in another part of the application, I would go with the assumption that they would use the same methods as described elsewhere. I personally consider post-op pain no different than any other type of pain. (again, jm2c..)

  2. no, no mention in the whole protocol.

  3. Yikes! Then not only is that a problem for that section of the protocol, but also in regards to pain management in their everyday husbandry practices. Identifying, categorizing and relieving pain is something that AAALAC inspectors specifically look for when reviewing protocols during accreditation inspections.

    I agree with you and think you were totally in the right! That is a biggie and you aren't being too tough.