Application Tips

Whilst each project and each application is unique, certain aspects of the application forms provide common pitfalls for unwary applicants.

These are:

Lay Language

A "layperson" is someone who is not qualified in a given profession, or does not have a specialised or professional knowledge of a certain subject. All Animal Ethics Committees in Australia include lay members who do not have specialised biomedical knowledge or expertise therefore they cannot be expected to understand scientific terms, expressions or jargon.

Lay language (or "everyday language") sections of applications should be written at a level that a Year 10 student could be expected to understand. Scientific terms should not be included unless they're in common, popular use. This means lay language sections will often be less specific than an abstract for a scientific paper would be, but they need to convey adequate information to enable the Committee member to understand the aims of the project and an overview of the procedures.
The table below shows examples of alternative or preferred terminology for use in lay language sections:

Examples of acceptable lay language Words to avoid in lay language sections
Protein Receptor
Lipid or Fat Triglyceride
Production Expression
Genetically modified Transgenic, knock-in or knock-out
Mouse Murine
In a live animal in vivo
Inhaled anaesthetic Isoflurane

Other things to avoid include:

  • Acronyms
  • Names of genes, proteins or cell lines (especially any that include both letters and numbers or symbols)
  • References
  • Names of assays or analytical tools (e.g. "immunohistochemistry", "Western blotting", "ELISA")
  • Manufacturer or supplier details
  • Technical information (e.g. dosages or concentrations of administered substances)

Animal Numbers

It needs to be clear in each application how animal numbers have been decided and what animals will be used for different parts of the project, especially for complex projects which include a number of different experiments. The use of flow charts and tables to specify animal use are greatly encouraged.

As well as specifying how and where animals will be used, and how many are required for each step of the project, the choice of group sizes must be fully justified. This justification usually comes in the form of a power calculation. If a project includes a number of different experiments, each experiment should have its own power calculation, specific to the parameters of what is being measured.

Each power calculation should include:

  • The key outcome measure of interest; if you're measuring more than one thing, base the power calculation on the one outcome that will require the highest number of animals
  • A reasonable power level; the convention is for power of 0.8, so use of any other power needs to be justified
  • The formula or programme used to calculate the group size; including a screenshot or print-out of the calculation is very helpful
  • The result!

A good resource to consult when planning your experiment, and deciding on the number of animals you need, is the ARRIVE Guidelines (Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments). These can be found at

The 3Rs

The Animal Ethics Committee has the responsibility of assessing each application with regards to the expected welfare cost to the animals in comparison to the potential benefit of the research. Although the application as a whole is designed to aid in this assessment, the response to the 3Rs question has a significant effect on the Committee's decision.

The following tips should help with understanding the implications of each question, and what to consider when answering this question to ensure the Committee has all the information needed to make a balanced judgment:

1. Ethical Issues - start with the welfare cost to the animal, not the research benefit (i.e. follow the question order). This is your chance to articulate the cost-benefit.

The welfare cost could include:

  • inducing pain/sickness
  • isolated housing
  • duration of pain
  • producing/using adverse phenotypes
  • premature aging/mortality
  • holding wild animals in captivity
  • in a benign study, recognise the ethical implications of using animals for our ends

Then discuss benefits of your research with reference to the cost to the animals. It is useful to quantify the benefits, e.g. the potential beneficial outcomes for individuals or for the environment.

2. Reduction - focus on the experimental design and statistics.

This should include:

  • how the power calculation relates to the numbers of animals requested
  • sharing of controls between experiments
  • randomisation and blinding
  • re-use of animals (carefully justified!)
  • other designs, e.g. washout phase or crossover, if they reduce animal numbers
  • whether or not both genders can be used
  • sharing of tissues

3. Refinement - focus on the animal!

This could include:

  • use of analgesics/anaesthetics
  • environmental enrichment/social housing
  • use of smaller needle sizes/fluid volumes
  • use of catheterisation versus multiple blood samples
  • use of non-invasive imaging or other tests (breath test)
  • use of osmotic mini-pumps or telemetry devices
  • reduced severity from published protocols e.g. less fasting, fewer challenges
  • humane endpoints/clinical record sheets
  • pilot studies to refine animal care
  • training/competence/confidence (leave this until the end of the section)
  • CRISPR technology

4. Replacement

This could include:

  • use of videos rather than live animals for teaching programmes
  • cell culture
  • use of less sentient animals (relative)
  • patient surveys

It's important to address the question of your literature search strategy.  Useful resources:

Clinical Record Sheets

If you are performing any procedures on animals, even non-invasive ones (e.g. behavioural testing), you must monitor the wellbeing of each animal (unless it's a non-recovery procedure), and this monitoring must be documented by way of a Clinical Record Sheet (CRS).

Each CRS should be designed with specific attention to what the animal will be experiencing and its potential responses to that experience - you may start with a generic/standard CRS, but it should be personalised appropriately for each study.
Things to include in and clearly state on the CRS are:

  • Date and time of the observations
  • A scoring system for the observations
  • Appropriate intervention points (based on possible scores)
  • Appropriate and clear interventions (e.g. more frequent monitoring; providing supportive therapies; seeking veterinary advice)
  • Humane end-points*
  • A column for "other observations"

*If body weight loss is one of the measures, a loss of ≥10% for a low-impact study or ≥15% for a high-impact study would generally require humane killing; if tumour size (for subcutaneous tumours) is one of the measures, a volume of ≥1000 mm3 would generally require humane killing.

Be careful to ensure that the intervention and end-points shown on the CRS match those stated in the application form!