7) Can a scientist just go ahead and do any sort of primate research he or she wants with monkeys?
No. Because nonhuman primates are highly regulated in the United States, any experiment that a scientist proposes to conduct with monkeys must be approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) at the Institution where the scientist works. The scientist must describe in detail the specific procedures that he or she plans to use on the animals, such as any behavioral testing, surgical procedures, or experimental substances like drugs or vaccines that the animals might receive. There must be an explanation of whether any of the procedures are likely to cause the animals pain or distress, and if so, details must be presented describing all steps the scientist will take to minimize or eliminate pain or distress. The scientist must also provide a justification for why the proposed research must be conducted with monkeys rather than some other animal; whether there are any alternative ways that the scientist can find the answer to his or her question (for example, by studying cells rather than whole monkeys); and why the scientist needs to study the specific number of animals that he or she is proposing to study in the research. In addition, the scientist must indicate that the proposed research does not unnecessarily duplicate research that has already been conducted, and must describe the sources he or she used to determine that the study has not already been done. Finally, the scientist must list all personnel who will be involved in the project, and must be able to document the training that those individuals have had with respect to the procedures to be employed and the animals to be used. The IACUC must approve this proposal before the research can be begun.
The same principles apply to research on wild nonhuman primates in their natural habitat. The precise regulations governing research on wild primates vary from country to country, and it is the responsibility of the researcher to make sure all application procedures have been followed. Generally, such applications include a detailed description of the research, its possible consequences for the subjects, and likely benefits for the country involved. Through such fieldwork, primatologists help to educate people around the world about biology, wildlife conservation, and the importance of natural resources.
These FAQs were written by John P. Capitanio, Ph.D., with assistance and updates from the Publications Committee of ASP. Special thanks to Jim Moore, Ph.D., and Phil Tillman, D.V.M.
Approved by the Board of Directors 30 June 1998.