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Caught between science and society: Foot and mouth disease - MP0152

In 2001 the worst ever epidemic of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) worldwide hit the UK. Over 5 million animals were slughtered and the costs of the epidemic to the UK economy are expected to exceed #15 billion. People from a wide variety of social constituencies were traumatised and trust in governmental policies was undermined. Before such a crisis happens again scientists and policy makers urgently need to understand the social and cultural foundations of the plurality of public know believe and feel.

This prject will:
1- Establish what members of various social groups know about FMD.
2-Explore the sources of this knowledge.
3- Study how this knowledge is framed and structured.
4- Discover whether the knowledge held by various social groups diverges, converges, comes into conflict or even polarises different groups.
5- Determine how these various types of knowledge interacted, if and why they failed to interact, and whether this contributed to governance failures.
6- Contrbute new data and new opportunities for theorising about local and rural knowledge.

The project has five strands that follow each other logicaly and are conceptually interlinked. They apply a multi-displinary combination of methods to a novel array of material to home in on the structure and contents of the plurality of knowledge abot farming and agricultural technology that we want to uncover.

i- a content analysis of official reports into FMD.
ii- a reanalysis of existing survey work on the public's perception of FMD.
iii- an ethnographic study of semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders;
iv- a content analysis of a 2 month cross section of selective national and local British newspaper output on FMD;
v- a metaphor analysis of poems and novels written during the FMD epidemic.
This project addresses the following programme research question; What are the implications that are raised by increasing recognition of the plurality of expertise and knowledge for the governance of science and agriculture? The project`s main aim is: to provide a deeper understanding of the cultural fondations of popular and lay beliefs about disease, farming and agricultural technology.

Our project has four main Programme aims:
1- Develop UK research capacity relevant to understanding science and social change by comparing and contrasting social and cultural representations of science, disease, food production and farming in carefully selected social groups which came into conflict during the FMD epidemic at two periods (1967/2001) and in two countries( the UK and the Netherlands).
2- Examine the implications for the governance of science that are raised by increasing recognition of the plurality of expertise and knowledge by exploring rural, urban, local and global networks of knowledge and conceptualisation of disease and epidemics.
3- Build links to comparable projects in other countries by comparing our research into the cultural and social inderstanding of FMD in the UK with this type of understanding in the Netherlands.
4- Provide a framework for social scientists, natural scientists, policymakers, private sector descision makers, and a range of interest groups, to renegotiate the role of (agricultural) science in society in the light of emphirical evidence.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2003

To: 2004

Cost: £50,000
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Nottingham
Animal Diseases              
Animal Health              
Foot and Mouth              
Plants and Animals