Even if an organisation signed up for the concordat not everybody in the institution is supportive of that (or not at the fully extent). What can we do to promote/support the concordat in our institution?
We discussed about making clear the “risk score” of the institution in term of animal protest. There are companies available to do that with clear data that can be made available and avoiding a conflict of interest from a source coming from an internal source. Moreover these companies can provide also other data at local and national level. All this, together with involvement of security should ensure the different members of staff that the requirements for “openness” set up are not putting them at risk.
Some institutions have been doing meetings for all the PILs and staff about openness and these initiatives had support from senior management and communications departments.
Having an official concordat meeting every year (somebody does it 4/5 times a year) seems a good idea to keep everybody involved and engaged in all activities. This also shows support and helps having things moving forward. It’s fundamental that members include: scientists, head of the school/institution/company, animal unit staff, animal unit manager, vet, security head, communication head.
Engage and communicate the concordat of openness from the beginning, with a clear policy for researchers and staff so they are aware what will happen. It’s essential that scientists, vet, animal staff, head of institution, head of security, head of communication are involved in the policy making and all activities.
Sharing evidence/ impact studies of openness activities is very important to show the positive impact on research. Gives examples and can boosts confidence in more “reluctant/scared” individuals, sometimes can act as “peer pressure” to the rest of the community. Openness at the institution should be communicated to all staff and from an early stage: visits to animal unit for all students, talks given by the vet to communication department, human resources and finance.
The involvement of communication department is very important as give reassurance on how things will be dealt on and can provide expertise and advice (ex. media training).
Clear communication of this policy to new researchers/students/staff with: induction, visits, tours for students at 1st year of biomedical courses. The same will help also with openness as public engagement activities.
Clear information to scientists etc that funding bodies are also signatories of the concordat and require therefore openness is expected even from them (ex. BBSRC, MRC etc.)
Promote openness as good citizenship to promote and be transparent about research integrity, justification for funding, reproducibility etc.
Senior management is key to modulate the behaviour of the institution. It’s important that they recognise and support activities/initiatives for openness and public engagement. Animal care staff are normally very supportive and welcoming to these activities and discussion on this topic among researchers and animal staff (vet included) should be encouraged and it’s fundamental.