British Society for Plant Pathology 25th Anniversary

The BSPP: A retrospective

by Nigel Hardwick, BSPP President 1997

The British Society of Plant Pathology was founded on 8 April 1981, with charitable status. Prior to its creation, the interests of British plant pathologists were catered for by the Federation of British Plant Pathologists (created jointly by the British Mycological Society and Association of Applied Biologists in 1966). With its formation, the new society entered into a publishing agreement with Blackwells to edit Plant Pathology, formerly owned by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The Society started with eighty-nine Founder Members. On 5 June 1998, the Society became a company limited by guarantee and on 10 September of the same year the company became a registered charity, this time with about 600 members from over 54 countries.

The Princess Royal greeted by David Ingram at ICPP98

Some of the key events in the history of the Society included the purchase of Plant Pathology from Blackwells on 1 January 1987; the publication in 2000 of a new Web-based publication, New Disease Reports. This replaced the popular "New and unusual disease records", which ceased to be part of the journal in 1994. 2000 also saw the publication of Molecular Plant Pathology, initially trialled as a web-based publication in the mid-1990s, but as a venture that was probably ahead of its time. Molecular Plant Pathology now has an impact factor of 3.3, with Plant Pathology at 1.7. Both excellent achievements, brought about through the hard work of their respective editors and editorial boards, keen to maintain high scientific standards in the papers published.

The Society made an unsuccessful bid to host the 1993 International Congress of Plant Pathology, which went to Canada. However, the experience gained lead to success with our bid for the 7th International Congress. This was held in Edinburgh in 1998, where we played host to about 2500 scientists and accompanied persons. It was the start of the era of web-based registration and on-line submissions, which gave the organising committee and our professional conference organisers some major headaches, but we came through relatively unscathed. The Congress was opened by the Princess Royal and, despite being concurrent with the Festival Fringe and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the scientific programme retained the vast majority of delegates in the conference.

The Society is still in its infancy, compared with the Association of Applied Biologists (1904), the British Mycological Society (1896) and even the American Phytopathological Society (1908), but it has come of age and could be said to have matured well beyond its years. It now provides its members with two journals, a newsletter, scientific meetings, a members' database and an active web-site. The Society supports members by providing funds for attendance at conferences in the UK or overseas; study visits abroad; visiting fellowships for members to undertake study at another institute; student vacation and MSc bursaries for research projects in appropriate laboratories and a promotion fund to support new initiatives with potential to further the promotion of plant pathology in the UK and elsewhere. All this has been achieved through an ever-changing group of dedicated members that constitute the Board.