Issues with the AWERB

The AWERB is now well established in the UK and recognised for the value it adds with respect to animal welfare, scientific quality, the Culture of Care, staff morale and openness with the public. However, there is variation in the support received by individual AWERBs and some outstanding issues that need to be addressed. The RSPCA has examined these through AWERB-related activities, especially the AWERB-UK meetings.

These are the issues that AWERB members have raised and discussed:

  • Not all AWERB tasks are fulfilled. Although more committees are devolving project licence review to sub-committees (before ratification by the full committee), other tasks may still be neglected
  • More AWERBs are setting out annual action plans with objectives, and assessing how well these are achieved, but this is not yet widespread
  • Many members feel that their AWERBs do not 'do ethics'
  • Meetings can be too short, and infrequent, to have full discussions of all the items on the agenda
  • The resources allocated to AWERBs, including budgets, are not always sufficient
  • Lack of engagement from senior management can be an issue
  • Many members report that they do not receive any training or induction, an especially pressing issue for lay members
  • Although scientists in general value the AWERB, some are less engaged and view it as a hindrance (and some AWERBs need to foster better relationships with scientists)
  • Awareness of the AWERB and its role in some establishments is still poor; communication about the committee and its work needs to be improved
  • Not all AWERBs liaise effectively with other relevant bodies such as committees dealing with Research Governance or Research Integrity

If you are involved with an AWERB, and recognise one or more of these, you may like to seek support in addressing the issue(s). Many were raised at the 2019 AWERB-UK meeting, summarised in a 'thought starter' format suitable for circulation within your committee.