NABR Presents Inaugural Ranking of State Open Records Laws

NABR is pleased to announce its inaugural ranking of state open records laws. This publication summarizes and analyzes the open records laws of every state and the District of Columbia as they relate to biomedical research records. Using several key criteria, each state’s law is assigned a score of up to five stars to highlight those states with open records laws most protective of biomedical research records, as well as the states with the most room for improvement.

All those involved with the care and use of animals in biomedical research should care about their state’s open records law. Animal rights activists have increasingly turned to both the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and state open records laws to acquire information about biomedical research and the personal information of researchers working with animals. Such information has been used to request baseless investigations, seek criminal charges for alleged animal cruelty and ask for enforcement actions to be taken for alleged issues involving noncompliance. It has also been used to inaccurately label researchers as “animal abusers” and target individuals and families at their homes. It is often posted online to encourage harassment. While many states’ laws include exemptions intended to protect proprietary information, these exemptions have often proven insufficient to protect animal care and use program and research data, photographs and the personal information of faculty and staff.

Researchers as well as administrators at both public universities and private companies should be aware of the state open records laws in each jurisdiction, as any communications, data, photographs or other information sent to or obtained by an employee of a public university is potentially subject to disclosure. This understanding is critical in the case of public-private partnerships or joint research ventures where some information is collected by or transmitted to a researcher at a public university.

In addition to analyzing whether institutional records and personal information are exempt from disclosure, these rankings also consider what costs a research institution may recover if it is required to spend valuable staff time researching and disclosing information. Many broad and vaguely worded open records requests, such as “all information related to research with nonhuman primates,” result in significant response costs associated with compiling the records,  legal review by  the institution’s legal counsel  of each page to determine what information is protected from disclosure, as well as copying and mailing expenses. An open records law that fails to permit an institution to recoup the full costs associated with responding, for example by only permitting photocopying costs to be charged, may encourage more broadly worded requests in the future.

In recent years, a number of states have recognized the crucial importance of protecting both research records and the personal information of researchers by amending their state’s open records laws to exempt this sensitive information from disclosure. The need for these changes has often been highlighted by examples of sensitive information being disclosed to and misused by animal rights activists and extremists. Proactive changes to the state’s open records law may have prevented many of these unfortunate circumstances from occurring.

The primary purpose of these rankings is two-fold: (1) to make those involved with the care and use of animals in biomedical research aware of the open records laws in their state and assist in evaluating each law’s effectiveness in protecting research documents; and (2) to encourage research institutions in states with room for improvement to proactively seek exemptions in their open records laws before information is released that may lead to targeting by animal rights organizations.

NABR also encourages researchers and administrators to download our Best Practices Guide, Responding to FOIA Requests: Facts and Resources, at NABR.org. This document includes information about the federal FOIA as well as several best practices and resources applicable to state open records requests.

To view NABR’s rankings of state FOIA laws, please click here.

 

 

Overwhelming Public Support for Use of Monkeys in Ebola Vaccine Research

Zogby Analytics conducted an online survey of 1,009 adults in the US and found that 64.4 percent of American adults support the use of research monkeys for the development of vaccines to protect against the Ebola virus. Slightly more than 71 percent of men and almost 58 percent of women support the use of non-human primates (NHPs) in Ebola vaccine research.

"NHPs are absolutely critical for Ebola vaccine and therapeutic developments as their immune systems and physiology are the closest of all animals to humans," says Dr. Jean L. Patterson, Chair of Virology and Immunology at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute. "Due to the unethical use of human experimentation in diseases of these sorts, using animals in the Animal Rule Protocols is the only way to move forward with developing a cure to these deadly pathogens."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, the current Ebola epidemic is the largest in history with more than 8,000 laboratory-confirmed cases and almost 5,000 deaths. The CDC recently released a new predictive model for the spread of the deadly virus which suggests in a worst-case scenario up to 1.4 million people could become infected by the end of January.

"Non-human primates are the most accurate model systems to tell us if candidate vaccines will work," says Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire, Professor of Immunology and Microbial Science at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. "New drugs are first screened in test tubes, then in rodents to weed out the ones that don't work as well, but the last, best test before human trials is often non-human primates."

Biomedical researchers continue their quest to develop both injectable and inhalable vaccines to prevent the transmission of the Ebola virus from person to person. Manufacturing and production could be ramped up quickly -- especially for a breathable vaccine -- if human clinical trials prove to be safe and effective.

"We have an Ebola epidemic now," says Paul McKellips, executive vice president at the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) who commissioned the Zogby poll. "But if we cave to pockets of public pressure being triggered by animal rights groups, we could be facing a pandemic by January, if CDC models are even close. Many Americans have been led to believe laboratory animals are no longer needed to develop treatments and cures for both people and animals. Despite the claims of those who oppose animal research, Ebola underscores the essential role of animal models, especially monkeys, in the development of medicines to save lives."

Oversight of animal research in the United States is strictly governed by multiple regulatory bodies. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) enforces the regulations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, and federally-sponsored research programs are approved and monitored by the National Institutes of Health.

"The US Food and Drug Administration requires that potential vaccines, drugs and therapies are proven safe and effective in at least two species before moving to human clinical trials," says Matt Bailey, executive vice president at the National Association for Biomedical Research. "Beyond regulations, the majority of institutions conducting animal research in the US voluntarily submit to a rigorous accreditation process performed by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International."

The Zogby Analytics poll was conducted on October 28 and 29, 2014 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

We’re Just Days Away from NABR’s Next Webinar!

Have you registered yet for NABR's next webinar? NABR's next webinar, "Should You Update Your Inspection Management Process?" is scheduled for Tuesday, November 18 and space is limited.

Animal rights groups have been using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to gather information on institutional correspondence on self-reported issues with NIH’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW). These groups also are requesting that USDA re-inspect institutions and issue citations for the items that were self-reported to OLAW.

This must-see presentation will review the current use of information self-reported to OLAW and explain how to best manage the inspection process to deal with the possibility of re-inspections. We will also discuss what steps should to be taken to effectively file an appeal in light of the new USDA appeal process.

Re-inspections and USDA citations have resulted from these requests from animal rights groups and given the finite time limit for filing an appeal, it is best to be ready. Don't miss your opportunity to learn how to prepare for such issues. Join us live from NABR’s DC Headquarters for "Should You Update Your Inspection Management Process?" on Tuesday, November 18.

Register TODAY for "Should You Update Your Inspection Management Process?"

 

Click here to reserve your spot on November 18, 2014!

Register

 

 

Webinar participants will be provided with a Certificate of Attendance upon request.

*This webinar is a complimentary service for NABR member institutions. An unlimited number of interested participants from each member institution may register free of charge. Interested participants from non-member institutions must be pre-approved and will be charged a per-person access fee of $279. All major credit cards are accepted. You will be contacted for payment upon registration. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Another Big Win for the AETA!

Today, November 10, the Supreme Court of the United States rejected a petition for a writ of Certiorari that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) was an unconstitutional infringement on free speech.

As NABR members are aware, five activists, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), filed suit in U.S. District Court in late 2011. On March 18, 2013, the suit was dismissed because activists lacked standing to challenge the law. The activists’ challenge rested on their asserted fear of prosecution of engaging in First Amendment-protected activities, such as protesting or letter-writing campaigns. The District Court determined that lawful advocacy is not prohibited by the AETA and found the activists had no standing to challenge the constitutionality of the law, since they failed to indicate an “intention to engage in any activity ‘that could reasonably be construed’ to fall within the statute.” The federal appeals court upheld that ruling and now the Supreme Court has denied the activists’ petition to review the case.

This development follows in the footsteps of the March 7, 2014 dismissal of the case by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, affirming a prior ruling by the U.S. District Court in the District of Massachusetts that the activists lacked standing to challenge the constitutionality of the AETA.

This decision by the Supreme Court marks another significant day for the biomedical research community. Thanks to these two important rulings and the decision by the Supreme Court, the constitutionality of the AETA continues to withstand legal challenges from the animal rights community. Please stay tuned and visit www.NABR.org for latest news.

UCLA Chancellor Voices Support for Research

This week, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block emailed the entire campus community stressing the immense importance of ethical and humane medical research with animal models.  Chancellor Block noted his support for the entire UCLA community engaged in these lifesaving and life improving endeavors.

To read the email titled, “A Message on the Importance of Research,” please visit Speaking of Research by clicking here.

NABR’s 2014 Midterm Election Round-Up

The seemingly endless campaign ads on television, the mountains of campaign materials in the mail, the countless sound bites, the frenzy of social media posts are finally over, for now at least. American voters went to the polls yesterday and made their voices heard.

Thankfully, there was a quick answer to one of the biggest questions looming over this year’s midterm elections: Which party will control the United States Senate? Pundits across the airwaves hinted that Republicans might have a slight advantage over Democrats, but that the decision over control could stretch into January of 2015 because of potential run-off elections in both Louisiana and Georgia. However in the Georgia Senate race, Republican David Perdue beat Democrat Michelle Nunn handily with 52.97% of the vote, thus avoiding a run-off in that state. In Louisiana however, there will be a run-off scheduled for December 6 between incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu and Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy. The Louisiana run-off does not impact the control of the Senate, as Republicans won control of eight Democratic-held seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia giving them a total of 52 seats thus far. Results are currently pending in Virginia where Republican challenger Ed Gillespie performed better than many expected against incumbent Senator Mark Warner. In the House, Republicans will have increased their margin by an additional 14-18 seats over their current 34 seat advantage once the post-election dust settles. This will be the largest Republican majority in the House of Representatives since World War II.

2014 was not a good midterm election for animal rights proponents. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), who is currently the chair of two committees with jurisdiction over the NIH, will be retiring and his Senatorial seat will now be filled by Republican newcomer Joni Ernst. Harkin, a long-time supporter of the NIH and science, was also a sympathetic voice for opponents of the availability of chimpanzees in biomedical research. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), a cosponsor of the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act in the 112th Congress, lost his election to Republican candidate Dan Sullivan. Senator Landrieu, a steadfast supporter of the Humane Society of the United States, still could lose her run-off election next month. To view projected Senate Committee chairmanships presented by Science Insider, please click here. We will keep you updated on those committee assignments as they become available.. Several ardent animal rights supporters will not be returning to Congress: Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY), Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL), Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME), Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-CA), Rep. Alyson Schwartz (D-PA), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), Rep. George Miller (D-CA), and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA). The most notable of these departures would be the retirement of Rep. Moran who, for many years, has been a leader on Capitol Hill for HSUS and other animal rights organizations. Rep. Louise Slaughter’s (D-NY) race is currently too close to call. If she were to lose, the animal rights community would lose another top voice in Congress. With Republicans expanding their control in the House and the loss of the above representatives, the new Congress is likely to be even more supportive of humane and responsible animal research.

Over the next few months, NABR will be busy educating freshman policymakers to ensure that sound, science-based policy is given full consideration in Congress. Please continue to visit the News You Can Use section on our homepage at www.NABR.org for updates of interest to the biomedical research community.

Tuesday, November 4 is Election Day!

Don’t forget to head to the polls on Tuesday, November 4 to exercise your right to vote!

With control of the U.S. Senate and all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives up for grabs, it’s important that you make your voice heard.  Please click here to find your local voting place.

Join Us on Tuesday, November 18 for NABR’s Next Webinar!

It's time to register for NABR's next webinar! Join us on Tuesday, November 18 for our latest exclusive presentation, Should You Update Your Inspection Management Process?

Never has it been more important to have in place an effective process for managing and documenting inspections. Animal rights groups have been using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain institutional correspondence with NIH’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW). Such correspondence often includes issues that were self-reported to OLAW, yet not cited during a previous USDA inspection. One group, in particular, has been requesting that the USDA re-inspect institutions and issue citations for the items that were self-reported to OLAW.

These requests have resulted in USDA citations for issues that were previously deemed to have been appropriately addressed by OLAW. In addition, recent changes to the USDA appeal process set a finite time limit for filing an appeal, which requires that your institutions have in place an efficient process for responding to USDA inspection reports if you believe you were incorrectly cited.

This webinar will review the current use of information self-reported to OLAW, make suggestions for managing the inspection process to deal with the possibility of re-inspections, and discuss what steps should to be taken to effectively file an appeal in light of the new USDA appeal process.

Click here to reserve your spot to join us on November 18, 2014!

register now

 

 

Webinar participants will be provided with a Certificate of Attendance upon request.

*This webinar is a complimentary service for NABR member institutions. An unlimited number of interested participants from each member institution may register free of charge. Interested participants from non-member institutions must be pre-approved and will be charged a per-person access fee of $279. All major credit cards are accepted. You will be contacted for payment upon registration. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Please Don’t Forget to Vote on Tuesday, November 4!

On Tuesday, November 4, Americans will go to the polls to elect 36 U.S. Senators and all 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition, ballots include election of key officials in state and local government. Early voting already has begun in many places so please check Google's "HOW TO VOTE" feature for more information.

NABR encourages you to exercise your precious right and to vote for the candidates of your choice on or before November 4.

White House Appoints “Ebola Czar”

President Barack Obama has named Ron Klain to lead the nation’s efforts to respond to any threat of Ebola in the United States. According to CNN, while Klain does not have health care experience in his background, he is highly respected within Washington and has been praised for his managerial expertise.

The “Ebola Czar” will report to Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco and Susan Rice, National Security Advisor. Read five things you should know about Klain from ABC News.

Please stay tuned and continue to check www.NABR.org for updates and other breaking news.

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