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National Research Council (US) Committee on the National Needs for Research in Veterinary Science . Critical Needs for Research in Veterinary Science. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2005.

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Critical Needs for Research in Veterinary Science.

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Veterinary research has historically played an important role in the improvement of health and welfare of all animals, including humans. Veterinary scientists are often at the forefront of research in human diseases because many human pathogens have their origins in animal hosts. Moreover, animal models of disease have been used to elucidate the underlying mechanisms of many diseases in humans and other animals. In addition to its many contributions to human health, veterinary research—by targeting the prevention and control of agricultural, domestic, wild and aquatic animal diseases—contributes to the quality of human life. Food-animal health, for example, secures a safe and economic food supply for the human population. Veterinary research is also essential to the health and increased longevity of service and companion animals and thereby reduces stress in both animals and owners. The events of September 11, 2001, have changed our lives in many ways and have greatly increased the need for research in human and animal health as bioterrorism threatens human health directly and indirectly through disruption of our food supply. Despite the increasing demands on veterinary research, however, its workforce has not increased. The types and priorities of resources dedicated to human and animal health must be reevaluated to address the greatly increased demands on research in the veterinary community.

The National Research Council's Committee on the National Needs for Research in Veterinary Science—composed of specialists in pathology, laboratory animal medicine, infectious diseases, genomics, nutrition, food safety, biosecurity, and other subdisciplines of animal research—was charged to identify current needs and project future needs for research in three fields of veterinary science: public health and food safety; animal health; and comparative medicine. (The committee defines comparative medicine as the field of medicine that compares medical and scientific discoveries and knowledge of one or more animal species, including humans.) The committee was also asked to assess resources, infrastructure, and manpower available to meet those needs without making specific budgetary or organizational recommendations.

The committee met five times over a 10-month period, beginning in May 2004. To gather information, the committee hosted a workshop in which stakeholders and experts met to share data and opinions on current and future needs in veterinary research, on a vision for veterinary research from a government perspective, and on the integration of veterinary science into tomorrow's research. Workshop speakers were selected in part to fill perceived gaps in the background and expertise of the committee.

We have organized our report into five chapters. We attempted to define the role of veterinary research in human society in Chapter 1, and to highlight historic achievements and identify trends and frontiers in veterinary research in Chapter 2. On the basis of the research needs described in Chapter 2, we suggest in Chapter 3 an implementation plan for each area of research with short-term, intermediate-term, and long-term goals. We describe the resources available for veterinary research in Chapter 4. In crafting Chapter 4, the committee encountered several instances in which desired information was not available for two reasons. First, veterinary research crosses disciplinary boundaries, so it is difficult to define resources and personnel that are dedicated strictly to veterinary research. Second, some desired information is available but cannot be extracted from databases. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a good database on individual grants, but it is difficult to determine whether some relevant awards are credited to veterinary research. The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges provided many of the needed data, but we were also seeking data on the time that faculty devote to research in colleges of veterinary medicine. Most important, there is no central source of data on infrastructure, human, and financial resources for other academic and research units relevant to veterinary science, such as departments of veterinary science, wildlife and fisheries, and comparative medicine; colleges of agriculture; and zoological institutions. In Chapter 5, we assess the adequacies of available resources to meet the challenges posed to veterinary research.

I am grateful to the committee of experts who gave their time and energy generously to a report they perceived to be timely and important. Each committee member participated in the writing, review, discussion, and revision of this report and eventually accepted it as a consensus interpretation of the status of and needs for research in veterinary science. I was impressed from beginning to end with the ability of this diverse collection of professionals to speak and listen, instruct and learn, agree and disagree, and ultimately reach an objective consensus on the issues posed in our charge. On behalf of the committee, I thank our study director, Dr. Evonne Tang, for providing direction, marshaling resources, and keeping this committee focused on its charge. The sometimes appropriate metaphor of herding cats is probably not lost on an audience drawn to veterinary research. We are also indebted to our administrative assistant, Karen Imhof, who, with Evonne made our work both productive and enjoyable.

James E. Womack, Chair

Committee on the National Needs for Research in Veterinary Science

Copyright © 2005, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK22919


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