Since each research project starts, from our perspective, with the protocol, it’s good practice to bear in mind the requirements for AAALAC (and other) compliance when designing your protocol forms (and even when selecting a software tool). TOPAZ customers are using the Animal Protocols module as part of a systematic approach to compliance in a number of ways.
Firstly, for new and aspiring AAALAC accreditees (that isn’t a word apparently, but should be), having software tools that bring better communication and oversight can be a significant component of the initial Program Description. If you are planning on working towards accreditation, having a system in place before finalizing the Program Description is sensible. Certain sections may need to be revised, however, if systems are brought in later. Once Elements is in place, the flexibility of the protocol forms can be used to ensure that important topics from the Guide are covered appropriately, with oodles of support resources for the PIs and research staff that are completing the protocol application.
An example of this would be animal transportation. Using the “conditional fields” capability of the protocol forms, it’s easy to ask the PI key questions about animal transportation without overburdening them with unnecessary detail, based on the protocol requirements. And, the attachments and hyperlink features in the Form Designer allow you to include lots of reference material, be it internal to your institution or public. You can embed the Guide into the form if you so desire!
For example, you could include a multi-option question to ascertain whether the protocol involves:
- No animal transport
- Transport within the institution
- Transport outside the institution
And then have “magically appearing” follow-on questions based on the answers.
The most obvious use of the Elements protocol module to assist with maintaining your accreditation is in the production of the Appendix 5 report for the Program Description. By including appropriate questions covering the “Special Considerations” in the form and then using TOPAZ Reporter, you can easily generate Appendix 5.
Next time, we’ll look at some examples of how other modules like Animal Census and Veterinary Management can assist with your AAALAC and the Guide compliance.