Dr. Isis has a post up this morning about a situation that occurred in her laboratory when student of hers that allowed presumptive members of her institutions IACUC around her laboratory without informing her (as the PI). Dr. Isis fear, in that particular post, is that anyone could enter her lab display some official looking title and get by looking everything over, and not be who they claim to be… I’m sure you can do the math.
I too have had a similar situation happen in my laboratory…. where an official looking person, who announced themselves to be a compliance official, waltzed into my lab and proceeded to rifle through refrigerators, freezers, chemicals etc, and everything else after chatting briefly with someone who works in my lab. I was VERY upset about this particular incident- but my reaction didn’t have anything to do with animal rights per se- although it could have- it had more to do with basic lab safety in a laboratory where we work with human heath hazards.
Big mistakes made on both sides here:
1. Despite knowing that I was the PI, said official never came directly to me and asked for access to my laboratory. Said official was seemingly unaware that access to my laboratory (and indeed all laboratories in my department) is strictly controlled, and is this is the responsibility of the PI. Training for compliance officials should include the knowledge that you don’t just walk into someone’s lab without seeking the permission of the PI- those days are over.
2. Employees in my laboratory know that access to my laboratory is strictly controlled by me, primarily because we possess human health hazards- some infectious some not. Yet when somebody flashed an official looking badge- they lost all idea that the appropriate thing to do would be to send the official looking person down to my office. Period. In our case, this is done because I control access to the lab- for the safety of everyone, the official looking person included. Yikes.
I can only teach those that work in my laboratory the right thing to do, I can’t control the other side of the equation (although I did make them aware that they won’t be entering my lab without seeing my direct permission again). So I’m firmly with Isis on this one- when in doubt… and there should be healthy scepticim about everyone you don’t recognize that attempts to enter the lab, regardless of official looking credentials… they should be denied access and sent directly to my office to seek my permission to enter the lab…