SE1957 "Pathology and pathogenesis of prion diseases" was devised to help maintain or improve prion disease diagnosis and surveillance and to maintain expertise and skills in the pathology and pathogenesis of such diseases, also known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). The overall aim was to continue providing high quality advice to Defra and support AHVLA’s role as national, OIE and EU TSE Reference Laboratory. The project started in 2010 and came to an end in March 2013. As with any other project, there are several circumstances under which maximising the outputs may not happen within the planned lifetime of research projects, as for example:
• Animals survive longer than planned, or there are delays in the project schedule (eg animal accommodation issues) and finalised data are not available sufficiently early to enable publication drafting before the end of the project.
• A submitted publication may come back with substantial reviewer comments, possibly requesting some additional or repeat work, after the end of the parent project.
• An unexpected finding may lead to additional publication opportunities, or further bioassay drivers, which were not foreseen when planning the project.
• Individuals may be invited to contribute to draft publications from other institutes following collaborations which were not explicitly funded within AHVLA (eg following supply of tissues etc). Time spent on such activity is well-spent in terms of scientific output, and kudos for AHVLA, but staff time costs cannot be recovered from the lead institute.
• Related projects may present opportunities for publications using a meta-analysis approach, possibly involving different disciplines – eg stats/epi approaches – which were not anticipated in the planning stages of individual projects, or revisiting data from closed projects with a different scientific perspective. (This is in keeping with the recently stated view by Defra's Chief Scientist that, organisationally, we do not always make sufficiently good use of some of the more historical data collected over the years).
This proposal seeks extension of SE1957 to give flexibility to staff to add additional scientific value to projects which have already been productive and successful, and complete areas of work which have extended beyond the lifetime of the paprent projects for one or more of the reasons listed above. It would also enable the specialist skills developed within the TSE research programme to be maintained, and to extend the body of knowledge available to support statutory functions and national policy and consultancy advice.