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Animal Research Ethics FAQs

When do I need to obtain Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) approval for my research?

All staff and students who will be conducting research or demonstrating teaching projects that involve the use of live vertebrate animals and cephalopods must apply to Macquarie University's Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) for ethics approval. This includes the use of animals in research, teaching, field trials, product testing, diagnosis, the production of biological products and environmental studies. Observational studies of wildlife also require AEC approval.

Where do I find an application form?

The AEC application form can be accessed here. Please note that there are application forms that apply to the following:

  • New projects (Ex-situ and laboratory animals)
  • Collaborative Research.

Collaborative Research

Macquarie University encourages collaborative research within and beyond the University, nationally and internationally.

When establishing an external research collaboration you should discuss the following areas with your collaborators:

  • ownership of intellectual property (see the University's Intellectual Property Policy);
  • ownership, location and access to the data and materials;
  • confidentiality;
  • identification and management of conflicts of interest;
  • protocols for the dissemination of research outputs;
  • sharing of commercial returns, and
  • responsibility for ethics and research safety.

In some instances it may be necessary to have a formal agreement between the collaborating organisations. All researchers are encouraged to discuss their potential collaborations with their Faculty Research Manager at an early stage to determine if a formal agreement is required.

Researchers involved in a collaborative research project must familiarise themselves, and comply, with the written agreement governing the collaboration and all policies and agreements affecting the project.

Researchers must disclose to their collaborators, as soon as possible, any actual or apparent conflicts of interest relating to any aspect of a collaborative project.

The AEC application form for collaborative research can be accessed here.

When will my Protocol Commence?

Projects involving animals may only commence with approval in writing from the Committee and once an Animal Research Authority (ARA) has been issued for the project.

What other Approvals may be required?

Approval may also be required from other relevant authorities outside of the University, for example, licences from government departments.

What is an Animal Research Authority (ARA)?

Animal Research Authorities are written official documents of approval issued for specific projects at the time of project approval by an Animal Ethics Committee. The authorities can only be issued for a 12 month period, and will need to be renewed annually during the life of any approved project that runs for more than 12 months. The Animal Research Act 1985 requires that every person undertaking animal research must be the holder of an Animal Research Authority. It is an offence under the Act to carry out research without such an authority.

What is the Autonomous Sanctions Act and how does it affect me?

In 2011 the Commonwealth Government enacted the Autonomous Sanctions Act 2011. "Autonomous sanctions" are punitive measures not involving the use of armed force that the Australian Government chooses to take as a foreign policy response to situations of international concern. The Autonomous Sanctions Act places restrictions on the University's interaction with persons and organisations who are associated with countries on the sanctions list. More details about the University's Autonomous Sanctions Act processes as they relate to research are here.

Who is the Principal Investigator?

Principal Investigator is the lead researcher who has primary responsibility for the design, execution, and management of a research project and who will be involved in the project in a significant manner.  For student research projects, the Principal Investigator must be a Macquarie University staff member. A student researcher may design their research project but the AEC recommends that students work on their ethics application in conjunction with their supervisor. As the student's supervisor is named as Principal Investigator, students must be guided by their supervisors.
The AEC advises that as the Principal Investigator has responsibility for their student's research, the Principal Investigator must read the ethics application thoroughly before signing and submitting the application. All correspondence regarding the ethics application will be sent to the Principal Investigator and their nominated person primary contact.

What documentation do I need to submit with my application?

The AEC application form can be accessed here. Your application should include:
  • Any relevant scientific licenses or permits you currently have.
  • Any relevant certification for your personnel (including certification of attendance to an animal ethics course).
  • Letters of approval from organisations assisting the research in any way.

This is a guide and not a definitive list. There may be other documents that are necessary based on the individual application. Contact the Animal Ethics Secretariat at animal.ethics@mq.edu.au if you are unsure about what documents you need to submit with your application.

How long does the ethics process take?

From submission to approval may take 3-8 weeks depending on any requests for further information or modifications and the responses received. Please ensure you give yourself adequate time for this process prior to your expected commencement date for your research project. 

When are the AEC meeting dates and close of submission dates

Meeting dates and cut-off dates for applications are available at the following page: http://www.research.mq.edu.au/current_research_staff/animal_research_ethics/important_dates

How and when will I be notified about the Committees decision?

You can expect notification about the Committee's decision within 1-7 working days following the meeting. All communication and notifications from the AEC will be sent via email.

The Committee may request further information following the meeting, so please remember that the process may take longer depending on the requested modifications and the responses received. Researchers' replies will then be considered by the Committee Executive or deferred to the next Committee meeting for review. Please be aware that this response process takes some time.

What is a conflict of interest and will it stop me from doing my research if I have one?

The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2007) defines a conflict of interest as "a divergence between the individual interests of a person and their professional responsibilities such that an independent observer might reasonably conclude that the professional actions of that person are unduly influenced by their own interests" .

The Code and AEC Terms of Reference advises that measures are adopted by researchers and AEC members to manage conflicts of interest. These measures include disclosing the conflict of interest.. Contact Animal Ethics by email animal.ethics@mq.edu.au for further information.

How do I amend my application once it has received final approval?

Changes to approved applications need to be submitted on the AEC's 'Request for Amendment' form available in Application Resources.

Changes to applications that need to be submitted for review include the addition or removal of personnel, changed or new technique/s, changes to research locations, the addition of species and animal number etc. Any changes to the AEC approved protocol will need to be submitted as an Amendment Request. Please note that any changes should NOT commence prior to receiving formal correspondence from the AEC approving your amendment request.

For further information, please contact the Animal Ethics Secretariat by email Animal.ethics@mq.edu.au

What personnel must be listed on my protocol?

All personnel involved in your research project who may need to be in contact with your research animals must be listed in your protocol and your active ARA. This may include associate investigators, research assistants, students, volunteers, and even interns working temporarily on your project.

Each person must be approved by the AEC before they can start working on the project. This approval is based on the qualifications and experience of the each person, and the proposed supervision.  Attendance at additional training in animal research ethics or animal research techniques may be a condition of approval.

It is important to report any changes to personnel. Changes to personnel are documented by submitting the form found here.

How long should it take to review my amendment request?

Amendment requests to add personnel to a protocol must be submitted using the "Request to add or remove personnel to an existing Animal Research Authority" form. The complete forms will be forwarded to the executive for approval and you should receive correspondence from the Animal Ethics Secretariat within 7-10 working days. When approval is granted from the Executive, a renewed ARA with the added personnel name will be issued. This decision will be ratified at the next AEC meeting.

Amendment requests involving removing personnel from a protocol will be processed within two working days and does not require approval from the Committee. Please use the "Request to add or remove personnel to an existing Animal Research Authority" form.

Any other amendment requests must be submitted using the Request for Amendment to Animal Research Authority (Other than for Change of Personnel). These other amendment requests will go to the next AEC meeting to be reviewed. If no further information is required, the approval letter along with the renewed ARA will be sent out within 1-7 working days after the AEC meeting.

Urgent minor amendments to existing approved application will be forwarded to the Executive for approval. This amendment will be ratified at the next AEC meeting. For definition of minor amendment, please check the Terms of Reference.

I have received a reminder to submit a progress report. What should I do?

The Code sets out that Macquarie University is responsible for monitoring approved research and ensuring that research is conducted according to the approved protocol. As a condition of AEC approval, researchers are required to submit an annual report informing the Committee on the progress of the research. This report is a 'Progress Report' and is available here.

Reminders are sent by the Animal Ethics Secretariat to assist researchers in meeting their reporting obligations. It is a condition of ethics approval that a report is submitted. Progress reports should be completed and submitted to the Animal Ethics Secretariat annually. If a progress report is not submitted to be approved by the AEC prior to expiration of the current ARA, this may be suspended by the AEC.

Can the AEC suspend my research protocol?

Yes, under the Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes, 8th Edition (2013) (the Code) and the AEC Terms of Reference, the AEC may suspend a research protocol following the review of an annual report or a possible breach of the Code.