VTRI AimsEric sampling

Our  VTRI programme aims to promote research on the epidemiology of infectious diseases through a series of six 3-year research projects on topics related to current veterinary and public health concerns. It also aims to enhance research capacity and develop a cadre of qualified specialists competent in state-of-the-art methodologies in quantitative veterinary epidemiology by supporting advanced research training, postgraduate training and undergraduate training in relevant subject areas. The programme will build upon existing links between Edinburgh and Glasgow Veterinary Schools to create an internationally competitive centre for research and research training in veterinary epidemiology which will act as a national resource.

Context

SheepIn order to ensure both relevance and breadth, Fellows will work alongside clinicians and researchers with appropriate expertise. There will be clinical input at every stage: selection of candidates; development of approaches to research; assessment of progress; evaluation of outputs and relevance to policy making. In addition, Fellows will be encouraged to adopt a multi-disciplinary approach, taking advantage of the excellent collaborative links between the principal investigator's research groups and other university departments, research institutes and agencies.

The issues of attracting veterinarians into research were well documented by Lord Selborne (Report of the Committee of Enquiry into Veterinary Research, 1997). It is against a background of a paucity of role models, a lack of career opportunity, and the difficulty in recruiting veterinarians back from practice that we now seek to provide a range of new opportunities that are flexible, financially attractive and relevant to those in the clinical domain, whether in advanced herd health practice or involved in national disease control issues. The environment and ethos proposed for these Fellowships will be more broadly supportive of transferable skills acquisition than classical research training and the proposal thus seeks to address the concerns of Selborne and the recommendations of the Royal Society inquiry, as well as the national need for trained and motivated veterinary scientists capable of addressing the challenges facing animal health at the population level.

Quantitative epidemiology must be a key component if the VTRI scheme as a whole is to meet its stated aims and objectives. The Royal Society of London specifically highlighted that “quantitative modeling is one of the essential tools both for developing strategies in preparation for an outbreak and for predicting and evaluating the effectiveness of control strategies during an outbreak” (Inquiry to Infectious Diseases of Livestock, The Royal Society, 2002). National capacity in quantitative veterinary epidemiology is limited, although the Royal Society identified several internationally recognised research groups in the UK with relevant expertise. A major problem is that the set of skills used by those groups is often far removed from that used by veterinary clinicians and many clinical researchers, with the result that communication between the different disciplines tends to be poor or non-existent. The creation of a new cadre of veterinary epidemiologists with experience in both aspects, apart from enhancing research and training capacity in its own right, would help to change the intellectual landscape in the UK, ensuring that quantitative epidemiology is better attuned to veterinary needs, that there is much more clinical input into epidemiological research than has been the case in recent years, and that there is a wider acceptance of the value of quantitative approaches to veterinary medicine.