Brown M. Education and training for researchers in laboratory animal science in the United States [abstract]. ALTEX. 2009;26(Special Issue):167-168


Laboratory Animal Use in the United States is primarily governed by two regulations, the Animal Welfare Regulations - AWRs (enforced by the US Department of Agriculture - US- DA) and the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals - PHS Policy (overseen by the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare - OLAW- of the PHS). In addition, most major users of laboratory animals are involved in the voluntary accreditation program of the Accreditation and Assessment of Laboratory Animal Care, International - aaalac, Intl. The aaalac and the PHS require compliance with the Guide for the Care and Use of the Laboratory Animals - the Guide.

The AWRs and the Guide both address the training of individuals involved in animal research. The AWRs require that "Personnel conducting procedures on the species being maintained or studied will be appropriately qualified and trained in those procedures". Section 2.32 of the AWRs specifically addresses personnel qualifications. It is the institution's responsibility to ensure training, and this responsibility is "fulfilled in part through the provision of training and instruction...". The AWRs go further and describe the general areas which must be included. Training is one of the areas evaluated as part of unannounced USDA inspections, which occur at least annually. The Guide also has a section on personnel qualifications and training, however, details of researcher training are not provided, except to indicate that they must comply with regulations. When conducting site visits, aaalac site visitors will often review training records and, through observation of activities and questioning research personnel, make an assessment of the adequacy of training at the institution.

The Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources (ILAR) National Academy of Science (NAS) published a manual on training that provides additional guidance on development of training programs (Education and Training in the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals: A Guide for Developing Institutional Programs). The basis for such programs includes a list of subjects which should be included in core material and additional modules, which are generally provided on an "as needed" basis. In addition, a full issue of the ILAR Journal was devoted to Training and Adult Learning Strategies for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.

Therefore, in the US, researcher training is not formalized at a national level as it is in some other regions. Using more of a performance based approach, researcher training is individualized at both the institutional level and the individual researcher level, based upon what species and procedures are involved. While this may seem to be a weakness by those who use other systems, the success of training (competency) is regularly assessed externally by regulators and site visitors and internally through biannual thorough review of institutional programs by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees. Reports of these reviews must be sent to the Institutional Official, who has legal responsibility to assure compliance and be available for review by external regulators and site visitors.

This presentation will elaborate on the approach to researcher training in the US and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of this system.