Prospect slams decision to axe BSE experts


Prospect slams decision to axe BSE experts

The scientists’ union Prospect has condemned the decision to axe 70 posts in animal health research as a further blow to the UK science base which will seriously damage the government’s ability to respond to future emergencies and threats to public health.

The move follows the announcement from the Institute of Animal Health (IAH) that at least 70 jobs must be lost from its three laboratories at Compton in Berkshire, Pirbright in Surrey and the neuropathogenesis unit in Edinburgh.

IAH is the leading national and international institution for research into infectious diseases of farm animals. It plays a strategic role in safeguarding the national herds with the development of vaccines and treatments, as demonstrated by the pioneering and crucial work on Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and the foot and mouth epidemic in 2001.

"These losses will severely compromise the nation’s ability to respond to such events in future," said Nigel Titchen, president of Prospect’s science, engineering and technology group. "IAH scientists were the first to spot the link between BSE and vCJD, yet parts of this vital pool of expertise are to be axed in an attempt to balance the books.

"It is a further body-blow coming on top of cut-backs at two of its sister institutes, Horticulture Research International and Silsoe Research Institute which have, or are about to close.

"Aside from the personal impact on the individual scientists and their families, we have real fears it will lead to the break up of many world-class research teams. This decision has not been made for the benefit of UK science but because of insufficient investment in the facilities, underpayment of the true costs for the programme and the failure of research sponsors, especially the European Union, to pay monies due."

Prospect is in discussions with management at IAH to try and ensure the cuts are achieved through natural wastage and voluntary redundancies with minimal impact for ongoing research programmes.

The union has also called on the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, IAH’s sponsor body, to approach the Office of Science and Technology and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for additional funding to help rescue the institute from any further damaging cuts.