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The politics of infectious disease: who should bear the costs?

Professor Ian Boyd
Professor Boyd is a world renowned scientist whose day job is to work at the interface between science and policy.

Infectious disease is bad news for everybody; fast-moving illnesses like foot and mouth disease leave little time for politics to take a grip but slow-moving diseases such as ash dieback or bovine tuberculosis are a different matter. What are the social and economic implications of these infections, and who should carry the costs? This will be the subject of the 2014 Science for Life Lecture, to be offered by Professor Ian Lamont Boyd, FSB, FRSE and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The Science for Life Lecture is a prestigious annual lecture organised in rotation by the James Hutton Institute, the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen, Moredun Research Institute, and SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College), the Main Research Providers who undertake research sponsored by the Scottish Government.

It provides an opportunity for a multi-disciplinary gathering of researchers to engage with an area of topical science which may be outside their area of expertise.

Speaking ahead of the lecture, Professor Boyd said: “There is a need for better methods to deal with this problem. I will illustrate this with the case of bovine tuberculosis management in the UK. This is a disease that is currently uncontrolled and is having an increasing economic and social impact.

“Interventions to control the disease are limited but we need to proceed toward a solution that maximises their benefits even in the face of criticism based upon partial understanding of the objective.

“This is particularly apparent with the social focus upon badgers as the cause/solution, and the tendency even among experts to settle on single-factor causation, when the real epidemiological picture is much more complex.”

Professor Iain Gordon, Chief Executive of the James Hutton Institute, added: “We are very pleased to host this year’s lecture. Professor Boyd is a world renowned scientist whose day job is to work at the interface between science and policy. His lecture will provide insights to help effectively deliver the Scottish Institutes’ science in support of the rural sector, ranging from ways to enhance food production, to issues of water and energy security and environmental sustainability.”

The Lecture will take place at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, on 30 May 2014, from 10am-2pm. Attendees at this year’s lecture will also have the opportunity to hear from the winners of the Annual Inter-Institute Student Competition. Attendance at the lecture is free but places should be booked in advance by emailing Events or phoning +44 (0)344 928 5428.

Notes to editors

Members of the press are welcome to attend the Science for Life Lecture. To confirm your attendance please contact Events or phone +44 (0)344 928 5428.

Professor Ian Boyd’s career has evolved from Physiological ecologist with the Natural Environment Research Council Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, to a Science Programme Director with the British Antarctic Survey, Director at the Natural Environment Research Council’s Sea Mammal Research Unit, Chief Scientist to the Behavioural Response Study for the US-Navy, Director for the Scottish Oceans Institute and acting Director and Chairman with the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland. He has also been the Chief Executive or board member of several companies for the University of St Andrews. He is currently Professor in Biology at the University of St Andrews and Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

In parallel to his formal positions he has chaired, co-chaired or directed international scientific assessments; his activities focusing upon the management of human impacts on the marine environment.

Ian was responsible for establishing the Scottish Oceans Institute at the University of St Andrews and the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland, one of Scotland’s cross-institutional research pools including eight of Scotland’s universities. He established several operating companies for the University of St Andrews and these now operate globally with subsidiaries in the United States, Canada and Hong Kong. As Director of the NERC Sea Mammal Research Unit he was responsible for advising Defra and the Scottish Government about policy related to marine mammals. He is also a member of the Scottish Science Advisory Council and is on the Board of Reviewing Editors of Science.

Professor Boyd has received numerous honours and awards recognising his contributions to science, including the Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London, the Bruce Medal (awarded once every 4 years) for his research in Polar Science and has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s National Academy, and is a Fellow of the Society of Biology.

Press and media enquiries: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.