Richard is the Institute’s Named Information Manager, which fulfils the requirement of the Named Information Officer role required by the Home Office for organisations that undertake regulated animal research. He joined the Institute as the Named Information Manager in June 2022 after being a Named Animal Care and Welfare Officer (NACWO) in another animal facility for 19 years.
What is involved in the role of Named Information Officer?
The overarching responsibility of the Named Information Officer is to support the people who are involved with animals being used in research. This spans researchers as well as everyone in the Institute’s animal facility (the Biological Support Unit) and my roles as an NIO is to make sure that they are aware of relevant updates on animal welfare, developments in the 3Rs – the replacement of animals, refinements in procedures that deliver a welfare gain, and reduction, methods to reduce the number of animals used in research. The role can be summed up as orchestrating the dissemination of information to people within the Institute and making sure that there are effective ways for people to access that information.
To give some examples of my work, I work with project licence applicants to identify information or relevant information sources to help them complete their application. In relation to this I chair the Project Licence Review Group, which is made up of Named Animal Care and Welfare Officers (NACWOs) and experienced animal technicians, with support and advice provided by the Named Veterinary Surgeon (NVS). The role of this group is to review project licence application before they reach the AWERB (Animal Welfare & Ethics Review Board) so that practical issues of animal use are addressed, and this streamlines the review of the work before it reaches the AWERB.
A major part of my role is championing the 3Rs and I lead on running pilot studies to refine procedures on mice. We’re always looking at optimising and improving our approaches to make welfare and 3Rs gains. Since I’ve been in this role I’ve led our review of good breeding practices and colony management and I’m supporting the use of the NC3Rs experimental design tool when people are developing project applications to make sure that the animal number calculations are done in a way that allows robust experimental analysis without using more animals than are needed.
More widely, and mainly for our animal technicians and the researchers who hold project licenses, I share news about the 3Rs and animal welfare, updates in animal technology and also promote relevant training opportunities and events. At an organisational level, I’m responsible for promoting the ARRIVE guidelines to make sure that husbandry and experimental practices are reported clearly in research publications and this connects to my membership of the Institute’s Research Integrity Steering Group.
It’s not all at arm's length, I spend some of my time in the animal facility training the animal technicians in new techniques that offer welfare benefits.
How did you become a Named Information Manager? What was your career route?
I’ve been in this role for since June 2022 and have worked in animal technology since 1988, during which time I have worked with lots of different species. I originally got started in animal technology after completing a science BTEC and that course involved work experience in an animal facility.
I was an NACWO at another animal research facility for 19 years. I was looking for a change and the opportunity to work to support animals through the 3Rs was really attractive. My previous experience means that I understand the day-to-day work of animal technicians and how facilities operate.
This role gives me the chance to influence our work at more levels, not just in the practical operations of the facility but also at an organisational level, such as the promotion of our observation of the ARRIVE guidelines. By influencing and introducing improvements, there’s a much bigger scope for leading change, which everyone here is positive about adopting if there’s a welfare benefit or an approach that reduces animal number.
What is involved in your roles from day to day? Who else do you work closely with?
My role sits in the Veterinary Team so I catch up with the NVS every day to talk about anything that needs following up or actioning. A large element of my day is looking for 3Rs developments and understanding the latest thinking for animal technicians and animal care. I put together a monthly round up of information, conferences and training and new techniques which offer welfare advantages. I also need to stay up to date with information from the Home Office and I do this through the Home Office Liaison and Training Information Forum (HOLTIF) to make sure that we’re aware of changes as a Home Office Licences establishment. I also sit on AWERB and report on 3Rs developments, and this also includes reviewing project licence applications – both as part of the Project Licence Review Group and also at the AWERB level.
I project manage 3Rs trails in the BSU and procedural refinements. This has led to the refinement of using flexible gavage tubes for introducing substances directly into the stomach, we’re investigating a refinement on blood sampling and we also plan to look at the use of disposable housing and enrichment material in the cages. Good colony management is also part of my role and I’ve recently helped establish a best practice document on this.
I am part of the Named Persons Group which brings together our NACWOs, the NVS and the Named Training and Competency Officer (NTCO) and we meet regularly to bring our perspectives together. I also help organise the Institute’s animal research seminars which are part of our openness activities about animal research at the Institute and aim to bring together anyone who wants to find out more.
What is important to you about your work?
Above everything else, the most important thing for me is to know that I’m doing the best for the mice, and through my work in the 3Rs and advising on project proposals, supporting good science.
My work starts right from the researchers starting to shape the research questions and the methods they’re going to use to try and get the answers through to ensuring that other people understand the animal research component clearly when the research is published.
It’s also important that we function well together and I really appreciate the support and contributions from everyone in the facility. What I do is really carried forward by everyone else so it’s very much a team effort.
What are you proudest of achieving at the Institute so far?
There are a few different things: within the facility it's been great to work alongside the animal technicians to roll out the refinement of the oral gavage technique which is a practical refinement, and I’m also proud of creating the best practice process on mouse colony management to ensure efficient breeding. At an establishment level, I’m pleased to have spearheaded action to promote our observance of the ARRIVE guidelines. This feeds into the Institute’s research integrity practices and is part of making sure that our work can be clearly understood by others. In terms of thinking about an activity that goes beyond the facility and the Institute, I'm part of the organising team for the Institute’s annual Animal Technician Conference, and it is particularly pleasing to see this bring animal technicians from around the UK together at Babraham to share information and network.