Research initiative moves forward

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Last fall, the Executive Board approved the exploration of an AVMA veterinary research initiative. In April, the board approved the next step, recommended by the Legislative Advisory Committee. The AVMA is now authorized to move forward with plans to ask the National Academy of Sciences to perform a study on the status of veterinary research.

The results of this study would help the AVMA define the problems and shortcomings facing veterinary research. This would provide a foundation for a legislative or regulatory initiative aimed at filling the gaps. AVMA staff will use input from the Task Force on Veterinary Research to create questions the NAS should address.

The board authorized the task force to hold its final meeting in Washington, DC. This will provide an opportunity for the task force to meet with key representatives from federal agencies involved in funding scientific research.

Perhaps the most effective, inclusive method of identifying research needs has been the Critical Issues Conference on Veterinary Research. The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges has produced the recent conferences. As recommended by the Task Force on Veterinary Research, the board authorized AVMA to encourage the AAVMC to hold another one. A number of research needs have emerged since the 1997 conference, eg, bioterrorism and outbreaks of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy and foot-and-mouth disease. An updated list of research priorities would be useful in developing the veterinary research initiative.

To facilitate the research initiative, the board also endorsed the concept of establishing a Coalition To Advance Animal and Human Health Research. This recommendation came from the Task Force on Veterinary Research.

If developed, the coalition would pursue sponsorship of a federal authorization bill to increase funding for animal and human health research, particularly areas relating to the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Defense, and USDA. The coalition would be composed of a cross-section of diverse interest groups and would be managed by the AVMA.

The board also approved a task force recommendation to endorse the ad hoc Group for Medical Research Funding in supporting an appropriation of $23.7 million for the National Institutes of Health in FY 2002, an increase of 16.5 percent over 2001. Congress and the Bush administration favor this funding increase.