Expert Report

Critical Needs for Research in Veterinary Science (2005)

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Research in veterinary science is critical for the health and well-being of animals, including humans. Food safety, emerging infectious diseases, the development of new therapies, and the possibility of bioterrorism are examples of issues addressed by veterinary science that have an impact on both human and animal health. However, there is a lack of scientists engaged in veterinary research. Too few veterinarians pursue research careers, and there is a shortage of facilities and funding for conducting research. This report identifies questions and issues that veterinary research can help to address, and discusses the scientific expertise and infrastructure needed to meet the most critical research needs.The report finds that there is an urgent need to provide adequate resources for investigators, training programs, and facilities involved in veterinary research.

Key Messages

  • Effective communication among the various entities involved in veterinary research is needed to maximize the value of continuing studies and to leverage the resources of the relatively small veterinary research community.
  • The last major federal program to support construction of facilities for CVMs ended nearly 40 years ago. AAVMC has documented that new and renovated facilities are needed to train additional veterinary students to meet the demands of public practice. The committee believes that meeting the facility needs will allow training of veterinary researchers (of whom there is a critical shortage) and provide additional space for research.
  • USDA documented its research needs in the 1999 Strategic Planning Task Force report. Not all those needs have been met, including biocontainment facilities, which were given high priority in HSPD-9. Over the next 2-3 years, new containment laboratories may be built in academic institutions to provide additional space for veterinary research under high containment.
  • Veterinary research faces a critical personnel shortage that is not limited to biomedical sciences. Some agencies and institutions report difficulties in recruiting and retaining researchers who have the veterinary expertise needed to fulfill the organizations' roles in public health and food safety, animal health, and comparative medicine.
  • Veterinary research integrates advances in basic science (such as genomics) and animal health, and it is a critical component of human medical research. Because veterinary research occurs in many disciplines, collaborative and interdisciplinary research is crucial in translating scientific advances from one traditional discipline to another.
  • Well-characterized animal colonies with known diseases have been an important resource for many remarkable studies and are imperative for integrative physiological and pathophysiological studies. Preserving the genomes of those unique model animals is critical to facilitate research in animal diseases.
  • Without the next generation of adequately trained veterinary researchers, veterinary science cannot provide the data required for informed decisions that govern day-to-day activity in animal health, such as decisions that underlie the economic stability necessary for adequate national animal health care.