From the President
The Society moves into its 17th year in good health following thestewardship of Peter Scott. His Presidential address was entitled “Theincredible pace of change – Information technology in support of plant pathology”.He left many of us on Council trailing in his wake and the past year could becharacterised as just the “incredible pace”. You will have read inPeter’s end of year message on our Web site of the structures that have beenconsolidated and put in place during 1996. The Society’s financial health makesit possible for Council to consider ways in which it can use its resource forthe benefit of members. The strategy group was established to undertake thistask and it has been decided that the group, under the chairmanship of thePresident, should continue. We need to review constantly the better use of ourresources. We must thank Peter for initiating this vital move and to thank himmost sincerely for what has been an exiting year, culminating in an excellentmeeting in Canterbury.
This year we move to the University of York in another historic cathedralcity, and home of the Archbishop of York. We are preparing a meeting coveringall areas of plant pathology under the title “Plant pathology – Globalaspects of an applied science” with the Association of Applied Biologistsand the Extension Committee of the International Society for Plant Pathology. Weintend the meeting to be informative, particularly suited to plant pathologistswho want to know what is happening in other fields of their science andproviding a meeting point for exchanging information on recent developments. Wewill cover all aspects of plant pathology – from identifying the problem toadvising on appropriate control measures. The meeting is also intended to coverparticular problems for those working in developing countries.
We will also be taking the opportunity to visit the new Central ScienceLaboratory at Sand Hutton, 7 miles north east of York, to be given a conductedtour of this prestigious site with its state of the art quarantine plant growthchambers and glasshouses. It will provide the opportunity to meet with membersof the Plant Health Group and discuss aspects of their work, including plantheath legislation, virology, diagnostics, pathogen risk assessment, diseasesurveys, disease epidemiology and control.
One-day meeting of offered papers
Many older plant pathologists will remember the successful one-day meetingsof offered papers held in the Natural History Museum in South Kensington.Recently horticulture has not been fully covered in our meetings and so we areholding a one-day meeting of offered papers on the general subject ofhorticulture at Imperial College, South Kensington, in April. A flyer has beensent out and further details will be available on our Web-site and through thejournal.
With the 7th International Congress of Plant Pathology only just over 18months away our efforts will be focused on making this a successful meeting andan excellent shop window for UK science. As the programme develops it will beplaced on our Web-site, so those wishing to attend can plan their individualprogramme beforehand.
A major concern, affecting not only plant pathologists, but UK science ingeneral, is current funding – the lack of it and any apparent strategic planningfor the future. The bidding process for funds is absorbing much research timeand the unpredictability of the outcome means that there is uncertainty aboutcontinued funding making even important posts vulnerable. The move to increasingreliance on short-term contracts is also leading to inefficiencies and jobinsecurity. It is my experience that the majority of scientists complain aboutthe system but we seem powerless to improve the situation. As we read in theeditorial of the last issue of BSPP Newsletter, making internationallyrecognised scientists who are working at the leading edge of our scienceredundant does nothing to encourage those who remain.
Surely we must be able to come up with a more efficient system of fundingscience so that there is continuity, that experience is recognised and notregarded as major overhead. For those working in the field of extension plantpathology it is particularly important to provide the necessary training groundfor disease recognition and problem solving. This can only be achieved by theexperienced, and therefore generally older members of the profession, teachingthe young. Unfortunately, priorities are focused towards revenue generation. Weare in a climate where it assumed that the necessary skills can be bought inrather than trained “in-house”. By the time someone discovers that itwas only the “in-house” staff who had the skills to pass on it will betoo late as they are likely to have been “retired” as part ofefficiency gains!
If the Society can join with others in bringing these concerns to theattention of the appropriate authorities it will be doing a further service forits members.
I will end by wishing you all an exciting and fruitful New Year. If you haveconcerns which you think the Society should be addressing, ideas for funding, orsuggestions for the scientific programme please contact me or Graham Jellis.