Retrospective review

Ethical review is an ongoing process that goes further than evaluating a scientific project before it is authorised. It is increasingly recognised that review of work at intervals during a project (interim review) and on its completion (retrospective review) is good practice. The overall aim is to: 

  • determine whether the actual harms and benefits are as predicted, and ensure information and experience gained during the course of the review period is used to inform future assessments
  • identify, build on and spread good practice and improvements in animal welfare, the 3Rs and the scientific approach during the course of a project
  • facilitate project management, for example by identifying any requirements such as training needs or equipment, and by providing a forum for discussion of issues of concern.

Institutional ethics or animal care and use committees (known as Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Bodies in the UK) are well placed to undertake interim and retrospective reviews. Guidance on the aims and activities of such reviews is set out in the RSPCA/LASA Guiding principles on good practice for Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Bodies (2015) (PDF 1.76MB) and in a LASA poster: The value of looking back - improving science and welfare through retrospective review (2007) (PDF 24KB).

Under EU law, a specific function of institutional Animal Welfare Bodies (AWBs) is to ¿follow the development and outcome of projects¿ taking into account the effects on the animals and identifying and advising on elements that contribute to the 3Rs.

There is also a specific legal requirement for member states to ensure retrospective assessment of projects is carried out by the competent authority, including all those involving primates or procedures classified as 'severe'. This assessment must evaluate:

  • whether the objectives of the project were achieved
  • the harms inflicted on the animals;
  • any elements that may contribute to the further implementation of the 3Rs.