AgResearch scientist Jim Webster has been elected to a prestigious scientific organisation that promotes international cooperation to secure humane and high-quality laboratory animal science across the world.

Dr Webster was elected to the board of the International Council for Laboratory Animal Science (ICLAS). It has 55 member-organisations, based in 21 countries, and was established in 1956 at the initiative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS) and the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS).

Dr Webster is also a committee member of the Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART). He said the appointment, made at the ICLAS general assembly, was a career highlight.

“It’s an honour. I recently attended an ICLAS board meeting in Denver where I was able to promote two successful funding applications from our region, so the benefits are already apparent.”

ICLAS strives to assist developing nations to adopt research animal welfare practices and codes of ethics that have become the accepted norm in countries such as New Zealand. He will also be responsible for strengthening networks here and across the Tasman. He is also hoping to advocate for funding of New Zealand science.

For someone who has been involved in the industry for over 20 years and been at the coalface of its evolution, and explosion in scale, he said: “It’s more important than ever for an organisation like ICLAS to be strong and effective. As New Zealanders, I think we have a lot to offer given our experience and high international standing in animal welfare and ethics. One of the next major changes facing research organisations will be to increase openness and public confidence in how and why animals are used in research.

“If we improve the welfare of research animals, we not only reduce the impact on the animals but will also improve science quality and increase the benefits from animal use, which is important from an ethics perspective.”

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