Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
We welcome the opportunity to comment on the
White Paper "Excellence and Opportunity, a science and innovation
policy for the 21st century". We do so in the context of
our earlier submission (9 June 2000). This emphasised:
(1) Veterinary science as an area of national
(2) The importance of veterinary science
not only to the patients but through its role in sustaining the
network of SMEs represented by general practices, the jobs which
they create directly and through the various support industries.
All of this depends on research if it is to keep pace with the
advance in public perceptions and public demands, as well as the
needs of animal health and those affected by it.
(3) The key role for veterinary research
through its relevance to public health and comparative medicine,
ie the insights into human disease which can be gained from relevant
models in domesticated species, notably dogs and cats. Closer
alignment of the research interests of human and veterinary medicine
has been a key objective of this organisation in recent years.
(4) Concern that, in view of the importance
of the Foresight programme in the national scientific research
strategy, veterinary medicine should feature alongside human medicine
in its deliberations.
While there is much to welcome in the White
Paper in general terms, the lack of involvement of veterinary
research gives cause for concern. Indeed this seems to mirror
a serious gap in the recent report of the Healthcare Panel ("Healthcare
2020"). This omission was the subject of the very pertinent
Editorial in the Veterinary Record of 16 December (page 697) and
it is not consistent with the priorities identified in the 1995
Report of the Foresight Health Sciences Panel nor with the role
for Foresight properly envisaged on page 26 of the White Paper.
The question of public trust of scientific evidence
concerning risk, including the risks potentially arising from
scientific innovation, is addressed on page 5, also pages 50-51.
In the veterinary context, key areas are zoonoses, antimicrobial
resistance and food safety. It is disappointing that the primary
organisation responsible for the latter, the newly created Food
Standards Agency (page 54), has so little veterinary experience
represented in its senior appointments. Eventually, this could
prove a serious weakness.
The appreciation of the importance of financial
support and career structure in attracting elite talent into research
(pages 9, 12, 23) is essential; without such talent truly innovative
research cannot flourish.
The role of the research councils, particularly
the MRC, is addressed on pages 19 and 54 with particular emphasis
on interdisciplinary research. The MRC has recently established
a Comparative Clinical Science Panel to foster research links
between human and veterinary medicine, provided that adequate
additional funding can be secured. Rather than attempting to secure
these funds through appeals and donations, it would add greatly
to the momentum and effectiveness of this very welcome initiative
if the additional funds could be made available to the MRC through
specific allocations in the new Science Budget. The benefits to
both human and veterinary medicine would be huge compared with
the investment involved (£10m pa) and would go a long way
to providing the strategic focus for veterinary clinical researchthe
lack of which was one of the main findings of the Selborne Report
on Veterinary Research (1997). It would greatly enhance the ability
of one of our areas of national competitiveness, veterinary science,
to meet the needs of the new century, in particular a strong evidence
base for clinical decisions.
8 January 2001