Training for committee members
Appropriate induction and training is key to supporting the participants in an establishment's AWERB, enabling them to contribute effectively and add value to the committee's work.
Countries with institutional committees recognise the need for member induction and training (recommended by the Home Office for UK AWERBs and the European Commission for members of Animal Welfare Bodies). However, there is often little guidance on the content or process for induction or training and, in the UK at least, many committee members do not receive either. This is in direct contrast to the situation for members of NHS medical Research Ethics Committees, who are required to undertake annual training including courses, seminars, conferences and informal learning and resources.
The gap in induction and training for AWERBs and similar committees needs to be urgently addressed. A good starting point is the Guidance document on Developing induction materials for AWERB members, produced by the RSPCA and LASA with input from IAT, LAVA and UK trainers. Though UK orientated, the Guidance should be helpful for other types of committee worldwide.
Ideally, induction should be tailored both to the individual establishment and to the needs of different categories of participant. It should include factual information and training in 'soft' committee skills. Some members will have attended courses for their other roles in the establishment (for example Home Office modular training courses) which should provide the necessary factual information about their local AWERB. However, most lay members will not have had this opportunity and their induction and training needs to be carefully thought through.
In the UK, the RSPCA provides training meetings for lay members of AWERBs and leads on organising occasional RSPCA/LASA/LAVA/IAT AWERB-UK meetings to provide training for all types of committee member.
The USA has an excellent organisation for members of Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees - PRIM&R - which provides training, holds meetings and produces resources and is a good model.