Reviewing Proposed Research

Allocation of research funding is determined by you, the public, through elected representatives who set priorities for federal funding agencies or through donations to charitable organizations that fund research.

Each proposed use of animals in research, teaching, or outreach must be reviewed and approved at two levels before that research can begin.

Securing funding and approval

Funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) typically employ a scientific review of every piece of proposed research by a panel of scientists who are experts in the field — as many as 20 or more in the case of NIH proposals. The review ensures that the study being proposed constitutes outstanding science, and that animal use is necessary to accomplish the goals of the study.

Further review is focused on every proposed use of animals. For example, the current “Vertebrate Animals” section of an NIH application requests the following information:

  1. a description of animal use to include species, strain, ages, sex, number, and concise but complete description of proposed procedures;
  2. explicit justification for animal use and choice of species and number;
  3. a general description of veterinary care, to include veterinary staff availability, their schedule of animal monitoring, additional monitoring relevant to proposed procedures, and indicators for veterinary intervention to alleviate discomfort, distress, or pain;
  4. detailed description of procedures to minimize discomfort, distress, pain, and injury;
  5. description, rationale for, and justification of methods of euthanasia.

This section receives both scientific and administrative review at NIH. Proposal funding depends on appropriate answers to these questions.

Campus committee scrutiny

If a UW–Madison researcher with a funded research proposal would like to incorporate animals in that work, an institutional animal care and use committee must evaluate and approve the study — including consideration of the study’s ethical implications.

Investigators prepare a protocol that outlines their study, describing its importance and significance, outlining all experimental procedures the animals will experience, and describing how pain and distress (if necessary to answer the study’s scientific questions) will be minimized and treated. At UW–Madison, most protocols that are reviewed are sent back to the investigator for additions or clarifications.

A study can begin only after IACUC approval.

Researchers given the endorsement of a funding agency’s expert reviewers and the approval of a campus animal care and use committee are free to conduct their work at UW–Madison according to their approved plans and within the strictures of animal welfare regulations.