First thoughts: the NHMRC Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (8th Edition)

Yesterday we saw the introduction of the new NHMRC Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes 8th edition. The revised code has been close to four years in the making, with 18 months dedicated to consultation and review.

So what’s new? To help spot differences other than the new name (the ‘Code of Practice’ of old is now just a ‘Code’) the NHRMC have a handy mapping document. A table tells us where to find information we’re familiar with in the 7th edition is housed in the 8th edition – if it is there. An accompanying PowerPoint is also promised.

The mapping document might be good to hold onto. In keeping with the new streamlined approach generally, the table of contents in the new Code doesn’t have the same details as Edition 7. Gone is reference to specific activity such as cloning, the induction of tumours and fetal and embryonic experimentation. In their place is a reference to “specific procedures”. Gone is the section on wildlife studies and its ten subheadings – these are located within “animal wellbeing” and “responsibilities of carers”. Users of the code will want to make extensive use of CTRL-F and other electronic search functions. The html version of the Code is also a welcome addition.

Also worth noting is the absence of some of the appendices. While no-one will necessarily miss the list of endorsing organisations and links to legislation – information that is available elsewhere –many researchers and committee members were hoping for an expansion of the former appendices detailing policies and guidelines; information and sources; as well as alternatives to the use of animals. These are not included in the new Code. Links to this information on the NHRMC website may be very helpful in light of these changes.

No revised document will please all of its audience, and there’s no question that extensive work and consultation has gone into the latest revision. The proof of this process will be in its implementation by those who work with animals in science. The changes will also play a role in the current review of the University of Melbourne revision of the Code of Conduct of Research and associate policies and procedures—including those for animal ethics and welfare.

The University will soon hold a series of updates for its academic, teaching and animal facility staff to guide them through the new Code and its implications for the University’s activities—stay tuned. There’s still much more to pore over. In the meantime, happy reading!

More Information

Clare McCausland