Project Overview

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“Lost in Translation” is a cross-council RELU funded research project seeking to develop more integrated strategies of containment for animal disease with specific reference to Foot-and-Mouth, Cryptosporidium and Avian Flu. The research began in summer 2008 and brings together expertise in public health, sociology, microbiology, epidemiology and veterinary science, environmental science and medical statistics. The project is a collaboration between Lancaster University (Lancaster Environment Centre, Centre for Science Studies, the School of Health and Medicine and Sociology), experts from The Natural Environment Research Council’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology as well as the University of Liverpool’s Faculty of Veterinary Science and the National Centre for Zoonoses Research (NCZR).

Defining and implementing scientifically and socially acceptable strategies of containment of animal disease is an area of considerable technological-social challenge, controversy and uncertainty. The human effects of such animal diseases, indirect as well as direct possible health effects, are virtually incalculable. Strategies of containment of animal disease vary in scale and scope, from containing infected animals (e.g. FMD), to containing animal to human transmission (e.g. Bird Flu). They usually require quick decisions to be made as the risk of disease spreads, and as new information becomes available.

The scientific knowledge upon which decisions are made is often riddled with uncertainties which, in translating science into strategy, are often overlooked, sometimes with significant consequences. Such uncertainties include inherent indeterminacy, may result from lack of sufficient data and also, fundamentally, from a dearth of understanding of the interaction between different domains or across disciplines. In moments of crisis, the interdependencies between social and environmental criteria are brought to the fore, and the limitations of the scientific community in understanding them when informing decision making are exposed.

If the scientific community is to contribute to the emerging programme of ‘building resilience’ in the context of the environmental risk and substantial social and economic consequences of animal disease events, there is a need to develop effective cross-disciplinary analyses of strategies of containment. This is the issue at the heart of the Lost in Translation Project.