Bioethics Blogs

The Role of the Public in Scientific Research

by Derek Fong, VMD, DACLAM, clinical veterinarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Throughout the 2014 Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) Conference, the relationship between the scientific community and general public was a common theme that was addressed on both broad and practical levels. During the 2014 Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) International Conference, which took place on April 1, one of the findings noted was a lack of participation by community members on the IACUC. I have been on IACUCs with both active and inactive community members, and have seen the important role they can play. Hence, I was happy to note that AAALAC emphasized the importance of the community member, and actually tried to measure their participation versus simply note their presence for a properly constituted committee.

In addition, a poster was presented that addressed the composition of IACUCs in the United States. I am always eager to compare notes, whether it is across institutions or across oceans, to find best practices, and it was interesting to learn that Sweden and Australia require that one-half and one-third of the committee is composed of community members, respectively. This fact highlighted for me the issue of increasing the participation of community members on IACUCs. During the AAALAC conference, it was mentioned that IACUCs can certainly have more than one community member to help rectify a lack of involvement. While I agree with this assertion, it is also worth noting that community members can be difficult to recruit.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.