Librarians on Animal Use Committees

I am happily blogging the activities of the International Congress of Animal Health Information Specialists (ICAHIS).  As a non-animal health information specialist, I learned so much about the differences and parallels between animal health and human health.  Go One Health!

On Monday, I attended two sessions.  The first, People, Animals, and the Environment: One Health Interactions and Perspectives that Enrich Our Lives and Our Work, was a very broad session.  Nancy Burford from Texas A&M provided an overview of an historical collection of books from a veterinarian.  The collection begins with books from the 17th century!

Moses Rusden A further discovery of bees London: Henry Million, 1679

Three presenters spoke about their roles on Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees, which are required for any institution that does research on animals. Susan Steelman from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences provided an overview of these committees and the importance of information in animal research.  In order to do research on animals, researchers must show that they have researched alternatives to the species they have chosen, any similar studies, and why an animal model is the most appropriate mode of study.  The USDA, in fact, “continues to recommend database search as the most effective and efficient method for demonstrating compliance with the requirement to consider alternatives to painful/distressful procedures.”  However, literature searches may not be regularly (or ever) updated, may use inappropriate databases, and may not even be done until after the rest of the protocol is written, making them fairly useless.

She conducted a survey of AAHSL libraries to see how many had representation on their Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC).  Out of 60 respondents, 37% said yes. Although it can take a lot of time, those on committees found they had a better understanding of the research process and increased relationships with researchers.

Marisa Conte from the University of Michigan spoke about her experience developing new library services for animal researchers.  Some of the obstacles she faced included skepticism from the research community as to how much the library could offer them.  One researcher said “We didn’t think the Library would want to help us.”  She now serves of the IACUC as the voting non-scientist member. Outcomes of increased library outreach to the animal researchers include greatly increasing the scope and depth of library services to the research community, as well as the use of the library by researchers.

Valerie Perry, a first time MLA attendee and the head of the Agricultural Information Center at the University of Kentucky offered some great tips for engaging faculty and researchers.  She serves as an alternate on her institution’s IACUC, which keeps her involved and visible to researchers without the full time commitment.  She has a LibGuide for Animal Welfare which might be of interest to others who want to support animal researchers in their institution: http://libguides.uky.edu/iacuc.

The session ended with a talk by Jere Odell from Indiana University-Purdue University who discussed a cross-cultural bioethics training conducted with researchers from Moi University in Kenya.  The number of non-US, non-European subjects in clinical trials is increasing so it is important for both US researchers and local researchers to be trained in cross-cultural bioethics.  Issues like the understanding of informed consent, language, privacy, the need for local benefits of research, and even the definition of “person,” need to be addressed when doing cross-cultural research.  Based on training conducted in Indiana, Moi University has established a small bioethics book collection.  If interested in donating materials for that collection, contact Jere jdodell [at] iupui [dot] edu