ALN World | alnmag.com SUMMER | 2014 23
How to Set Up and Manage
a New Training Program
In 2004, the Institute for Molecular and Cell Biology in Portugal faced the challenge of licensing personnel who would do research with animals. Since few of their scientists had the necessary training to qualify for a full license, the majority were given two- to five-year temporary ones.
Anna Olsson, recently hired as a scientist and deeply involved in research and management,
This was no mean feat. The institution was only a few years old so a tradition of training
had not yet been established, and there were new scientists arriving regularly. Effectively, then,
Anna became the manager of a complex project with many phases: create a culture, manage
the logistics, coordinate with FELASA, choose and systematically test a variety of instructional
methods, market the new program, launch it, deliver it, arrange for feedback and engage train-
ers who were equipped to ensure courses met FELASA’s very high educational standards.
Taking on this challenge was natural for Anna whose strong interest in animal behaviour
and welfare had led her to take a PhD in Ethology, which is the study of animal behaviour. The
training initiative gained support from the Institute and several colleagues joined her to form a
small team. I spoke with Anna, who told me about the challenges and how she met them—and
also gave me some pointers for those who are starting or managing lab animal facility training.
The first challenge was ensuring that the training, in a relatively new institution, would be
of interest to scientists and senior staff, recognised internationally and a force for building on
the considerable talent among the Institution’s scientists and staff. Twenty-seven people held
provisional licenses that required further training before becoming permanent, but two to five
years was a long time out and trusted training was available off site.
To address this challenge,Anna and her colleague, Luís Antunes, listened to their management intuition. First, they introduced a period of consultation, looking at successful initiatives
at other institutions and welcoming advice and questions. Then the project team set a goal of
obtaining FELASA accreditation for Category C courses—accreditation they would be in a position to seek after two editions of the course. In hindsight, Anna says, the key success factors
were the right teachers, productive examinations and student feedback.
After two rounds of changes, the training program gained FELASA accreditation. Anna told
me that the course they run today is the result of continuous work to improve in order to gain
and maintain accreditation. The feedback from the Accreditation Board—especially the site
visit—and the course team’s own focus on student feedback were the necessary catalysts.
Anna reports many lessons learned and shares some of them here, hoping her experience
will make the road a bit less bumpy, if not shorter, for those starting out.
MATCHING TRAINING AND NEEDS
An essential first step is to profile your audiences. Each will have somewhat to very different
training needs. Their largest training group is researchers, who learn how to use laboratory
animals. There is a high turnover amongst this group, with inexperienced graduate students
coming in every year, but also more experienced researchers who are starting to use animal
models because their research has taken a different turn.
The IBMC training team works principally with two groups. One group is those who have no
previous experience with animals and need to learn the basics of the research animal’s biology
shares some of
them here, hop-
ing her experi-
ence will make
the road a bit
less bumpy, if not
shorter, for those