April 01, 2003


 NAS set to study veterinary research trends

Study will focus on public health and safety, animal health, and comparative medicine 
Posted March 15, 2003  

The National Academies has given the green light for a national study to evaluate the current state and future needs of veterinary science research. The news has sparked applause from the veterinary community and other long-term supporters of such a study.

"Given the recent events of the past several years, veterinary research has come to the forefront of importance, in terms of protecting public health, in addition to protecting all animals that serve in different capacities, and in terms of the human-animal bond," says Charlotte Kirk Baer, director of the National Academies Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources. "So, from all of these perspectives, this study is terribly important."

The academy has been spurred to conduct the study because it believes that, while veterinary research has the potential to significantly impact many fields, including animal health, human medicine, food safety, and bioterrorism, support for animal-related research has been limited.

"Regardless of what the results are, the study itself will really bring some recognition at a federal level in the United States of the breadth and the importance of veterinary medical research," said Dr. Elizabeth A. Sabin, assistant director of the AVMA Education and Research Division.

Dr. Daryl D. Buss is chair of the AVMA Council on Research. "One of the things we have really lacked is an outside party's objective review of where we are now in terms of the needs for veterinary research, in terms of the adequacy of the research infrastructure including faculty and facilities, and so on," said Dr. Buss. "It's a National Academies study, in my view, that is going to give that blueprint to us as a profession."

The study will focus on three fields: public health and safety, animal health, and comparative medicine. These fields encompass research involving domestic, wild, companion, laboratory, and service (e.g. horses, dogs) animals, and include work done by individuals with DVM or equivalent degrees as well as other professional degrees.

For the study, a committee of experts, appointed by the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, will be charged with reviewing published literature and data provided by stakeholders, summarizing current and past research activities, and projecting future needs.

In looking at trends and gaps, the committee will evaluate the scientific expertise required, funding levels and sources, and institutional capacity. If appropriate, they will make recommendations for the future, but these will not include specific budgetary or organizational suggestions.

The Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources began soliciting funding shortly after approving the study in early February, and it is initially seeking sponsorship from five primary stakeholders: the AVMA, Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, and Department of Agriculture.

Baer anticipates it will take three to six months to obtain the funding. Once they have obtained 70 percent of the funding, however, they will begin taking nominations for the committee.

For advisory boards such as these, the National Academies National Research Council solicits suggestions from professional organizations, members of the National Academies, and experts in the field to create a list of potential candidates. This list is gradually refined and reviewed at several levels before being submitted to the chair of the NRC for approval.

The approved committee will then conduct a 15-month study and produce a final consensus report.

Veterinarians who want to be considered for the 15-member committee can contact Baer at (202) 334-3062.

The green light for the study is welcome news to the AVMA and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. They have long seen a need for this study.

In the summer of 2000, the AVMA Executive Board approved a recommendation made by the AVMA/AAVMC Joint Committee to form an eight-member joint Task Force on Veterinary Research. The task force was put in charge of developing a national agenda for veterinary research. One result was a proposal that the National Academies should be commissioned to conduct a study, which was then approved by the AVMA Executive Board.

Since that time, the Task Force on Veterinary Research, the AVMA Council on Research, and AVMA staff in Washington, D.C., and Schaumburg have worked closely with the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources to develop and refine the final study proposal.

While the process has been long and sometimes arduous, most individuals believe it will be worth the wait.

"We are anxious to get started on it. Our board has been concerned with this issue for many years," Baer said. "We need to determine what it is that we are going to need in the future, where we are now, what gaps exist, and how we are going to get to (where we need to be) in the future."