No, CRIPES didn’t get tickets to the Rugby on Saturday but we did attend the Welsh Govt hosted meeting at the Millennium Stadium on 4 Feb 2015 “Animal and Plant Health in the UK”. Governmental officials, funding agents (BBSRC), vets, foresters, plant pathologists and scientists got together to discuss pressing issues and priorities, which included in our discussion group:
- Building on our strengths. We need a database (fronted by a website) of all Welsh parties interested in plant and animal health. This resource will facilitate knowledge transfer, career promotion and capacity building, but also highlight any potential gaps in expertise.
- Maintaining distinct funding streams for plant and animal pathogen research.
- Flexibility in funding. Let’s relax time constraints on spending grant funding. Scientists/agencies are tax payers too and we all want to see value for money, so if funds are saved within a grant that money should be used for a longer period to support staff rather than encouraging money to be wasted at the end of a budget period.
- ‘Back to basics’. New technological developments make biology one of the most exciting areas to work in, but sometimes there is no substitute for good ‘old fashion’ routine monitoring. Having long term data on endemic parasites will help us with early detection of new Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID). We need to train a new generation in basic taxonomy before such skills are lost.
- Increasing Public Awareness of parasites and pathogens, for instance through the use of Citizen Science Projects. Education is the key to prevention of disease and effective control.
The meeting was very much focused on capacity in Wales, but will full appreciation that neither parasites nor pathogens respect boundaries. It was also widely recognised that many of the problems facing epidemiologists are the same as those faced by those attempting to control invasive species. Pathways for disease transmission could well be the same routes responsible for the spread of invasive non-native species (INNS), but of course in both cases ‘Prevention is better than Cure’.