Chief Scientific Adviser's (CSA's) FMD Science Group

The Chief Scientific Adviser's foot and mouth disease science group is not a formal committee, but rather a body of experts called together at short notice as a result of the emergency. The group is a mixture of government research scientists, university academics, practitioners in the field, and representatives of government departments and agencies. It brings together a range of experts in disciplines such as epidemiological modelling, statistics, animal health research, veterinary research and practice and logistics. 

The science group was not set up to be to be a consensus forming body. It was constituted so as to include a range of views on the scientific aspects of tackling the outbreak. Its purpose is to help the CSA decide on and formulate advice to Government by means of discussion and debate. 

The make-up of the group has evolved over the course of the outbreak. From time to time new experts have been added. For example, two practising vets have been invited to join the meetings, in order that the group could benefit from their experience in the field. At the same time some other groups, for example the logistics experts, have taken a less active role as the issues have evolved. 


20 February

FMD confirmed in Essex

14 March

MAFF provide data to epidemiologists

21 March

Epidemiologists make presentations of their models to CSA, DEFRA's Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) and Sir John Krebs, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency

Roy Anderson media interviews on epidemiology of FMD

22 March 

24 March

CSA begins drafting letter to the PM advising that epidemic out of control, but not in the event sent due to invitation from PM for CSA to set up FMD Science Group. Meeting of Permanent Secretaries to discuss FMD. CSA advises disease out of control. (This meeting chaired by the Secretary of the Cabinet, Sir Richard Wilson starts off the Cabinet Office group (COBR) meetings)

CSA takes part in media briefing (first of many)

CSA attends COBR meetings which are initially held on average twice daily every weekday for the next 6 weeks before being scaled down. Later the FMD (co-ordinating) Meetings take on COBR's role - these are held twice weekly

25 March

Imperial College provides further analysis of the effects of ring culling plus vaccination, modified after discussions with Cambridge group.

26 March

First meeting of the FMD Science Group (SG). The group continues to meet daily until the end of March, 10 meetings held in April and then on a weekly basis. 30 meetings held up to the end of September

1st SG meeting
- issues discussed:
latest outputs from epidemiological models (modelling developments)

impact of vaccination (vaccination strategy for both non food-chain animals and cattle)
review of data on FMD virus

Meeting with Ben Gill, National Farmer's Union (NFU)

27 March

2nd SG meeting
- issues discussed:
vaccination strategy
review of data/model outputs

28 March

3rd SG meeting
- issues discussed:
further information on vaccination

latest opinions from epidemiologists
data requirements

29 March

4th SG meeting
- issues discussed:
vaccination and its possible effects on the outbreak
Meeting with PM to discuss vaccination

30 March

5th SG meeting
- issues discussed:
recent findings

questions to be answered
data issues

2 April

6th SG meeting
- issues discussed:
options for dealing with the situation in Cumbria
how to handle new cases of infection adjacent to the 'hot-spots'

3 April

7th SG meeting
- issues discussed:
regional briefing paper

liaison with media
prioritising uses of serology

epidemiological modelling

area north of Birmingham

database of stock density

paper by Dr Donaldson on vaccination
CSA's first public talk at the Royal Society on the FMD epidemic

4 April

Media briefing "measures beginning to bite" and regional briefings to farmers by scientists from FMD Science Group and officials. CSA interviewed on Channel 4 TV and BBC Radio 4

5 April

8th SG meeting -
issues discussed:
feedback from regional visits

rare/endangered breeds

draft ramblers leaflet

disease control system,
first draft of DEFRA's paper on serology

DEFRA's Veterinary Laboratory Agency (VLA) Interspread model
6 April

9th SG meeting
- issues discussed:
possibility of using new virus detection equipment

availability of data (on location and timings of premises slaughtered)

progress on modelling

draft Q&A on the scientific aspects of vaccination

draft paper on the serology screening paper and priorities for future work 
CSA attends first progress meeting at No 10

7 April

DEFRA issue leaflet: "How FMD is spread" which gives advice from the CSA and CVO on how to avoid spreading the disease while still enjoying the countryside

10 April

10th SG meeting -
issues discussed:
vaccination programme (Cumbria)

control by aerial disinfection

data on number of animals slaughtered

epidemiology of FMD in sheep

preparation for media briefing on 11 April
CSA letter to PM advising on use of vaccination in Cumbria

11 April

Media briefing "number of cases levelling out". Interviewed by BBC Radio 4

12 April

11th SG meeting
- issues discussed:
definition of contiguous premises

data on slaughtering

Smart Cycler virus testing machine

policy options in Devon

Meeting with PM, Sir John Krebs and retailers at Chequers to discuss vaccination

16 April

CSA visits Cumbria to explain to local farmers and vets the 24/48 hour cull and a possible vaccination campaign

17 April

12th SG meeting
- issues discussed:
details of CSA's visit to Cumbria to meet farmers on 16 April

modelling updates

data on slaughtering

working methods of the SG

media handling

planning of serological testing (Pirbright)

Smart Cycler Followed by:

SG's Subgroup on Vaccines meeting

Meeting with Ben Gill, NFU

Meeting at No 10 with PM, Nick Brown, Eliott Morley, CVO and Brian Bender, Permanent Secretary, DEFRA

18/19 April

Meetings with representatives of the NFU and the British Cattle Veterinary Association by the CSA and some of the FMD Science Group

18 April

CSA and CVO give media briefing on limited vaccination proposals

19 April

13th SG meeting
- issues discussed:
Update on availability of slaughter data (DEFRA)

Epidemiological updates

48 hour contiguous cull policy
report back from the vaccination sub-group meeting

Media briefing "disease fully under control"

20 April

Letter to PM saying no co-operation from farmers on vaccination

24 April

14th SG meeting -
, issues discussed:
contiguous cull policy

updates and results of recent modelling


Smart Cycler technology

issues arising from meetings with NFU and vets

FMD in deer

Agriculture Select Committee

access to DEFRA database

monitoring smoke from burning pyres
25 April

CSA's appearance before the House of Commons Agriculture Committee.

Meeting with Nick Brown to advise on redefining the contiguous cull policy followed by 10pm TV news interview on Phoenix the calf

26 April

15th SG meeting
- issues discussed:
update by CSA on decisions on culling of contiguous premises

Agricultural Select Committee
epidemiology update

CSA and CVO Media briefing following Nick Brown's statement to the Commons on contiguous culling

2 May

CSA appearance before the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee

16th SG meeting
- issues discussed:
rationale behind the contiguous cull policy

exit strategy

opening up the Lake District
epidemiology updates

FMD transmission in pigs

3 May

Media briefing with PM "controls having significant effect and epidemic was under control". CSA attends meeting chaired by PM with NFU, Nick Brown, Brian Bender and Jim Scudamore. Interviewed by Channel 4 TV

9 May

17th SG meeting -
issues discussed:
epidemiological updates

contiguous cull

CVO letter of 1 May on FMD control issues

SG's revised paper on vaccination 'key facts'

15 May

Meeting with Australian Trade Minister which includes discussion on epidemic

Interviewed on BBC Radio 4 Today Programme

16th May

18th SG meeting -
issues discussed:
update on number of cases

vaccination paper ('key facts')

epidemiological updates


contiguous cull

letter to the CVO regarding FMD control issues

possible article explaining the work of the group

18 May

Meeting with United States Department of Agriculture on portable PCRs

24 May

19th SG meeting
- issues discussed:
updates on number of cases

epidemiological updates

contiguous cull

private FMD diagnostics service
future papers 
Channel 4 TV Interview..

30 May

20th SG meeting
-issues discussed:
updates on number of cases

epidemiological updates

approach by company seeking assistance on new diagnostic technology and

development of testing techniques 
CSA and CVO media briefing on the Settle cluster

Interview for Channel 4 TV

7 June

21st SG meeting - issues discussed:
epidemiological updates

control measures in Settle and elsewhere

vaccination in the Settle cluster
collection of epidemiological data versus early culling

12 June

CSA visits Germany and interviewed by German newspaper about genetics, BSE and FMD

18 June

Meeting with NFU to discuss vaccination and epidemic

20 June

22nd SG meeting - issues discussed
epidemiological updates and use of models to predict future 'hotspots'


future meetings of the group

electricity pylons

28 June

23rd SG meeting - issues discussed
epidemiological updates

provision of data by DEFRA


evaluation of PCR technology

biosecurity campaign

exemption scheme for pedigree pigs or rare breeds or high genetic value


29 June

Meeting at NFU offices to discuss controls with Cumbrian farmers

Early July

Representatives from the FMD Science Group go on regional visits to Penrith, Settle, Whitby and Devon as part of DEFRA team reinforcing the biosecurity message

3 July

CSA interviewed for Channel 4 TV Dispatches

11 July

24th SG meeting - issues discussed
epidemiological updates



statement on the contiguous cull

planning for autumn sheep movements

18 July

25th SG meetings - issues discussed
epidemiological updates
relaxation of autumn movement controls

autumn movements


evaluation of PCR technology

science behind the contiguous cull

biosecurity campaign

25 July

26th SG meeting - issues discussed
epidemiological updates

DEFRA proposals to bear down on the epidemic

vaccination (including proposals for the Brecon Beacons)

PCR technology

8 August

27th SG meeting- - items discussed
epidemiological updates

future policy options

Dutch vaccination policy

20 August

Meeting with Soil Association to discuss vaccination

22 August

28th SG meeting - issues discussed
review of current situation

autumn movements

30 August

Meeting with NFU to discuss autumn movements

CSA expresses concerns to Lord Whitty about effects of relaxation of movement controls

31 August

Presentation to industry stakeholders at DEFRA meeting on autumn movements

5 September

29th SG meeting - issues discussed
epidemiological updates

autumn movements

Channel 4 TV News interview on two scientific papers from Keeling et al and Ferguson et al published respectively in Science and Nature which give a retrospective view of how such outbreaks could be managed in the future

6 September

BBC Radio 4 interview for the Today programme on vaccination and the above publications

7 September

CSA gives media interviews on FMD at British Association for the Advancement of Science Festival, Glasgow

10 September

CSA and DEFRA officials meet Cumbrian NFU members

13 September

Media briefing with DEFRA on vaccination

17 September

Meeting with Fred Brown and others to discuss PCR technology and vaccination

19 September

30th SG meeting - issues discussed
current situation

epidemiological updates

comments of state of the epidemic

use of PCR

autumn movements


21 September

Article in the Daily Telegraph on vaccination

11 October

Meeting with the NFU Council

12 October

CSA speaks on "Farming Today" following NFU Council meeting

18 October

CSA meets with Cumbrian farmers

1 November

31st SG meeting - issues discussed


serology and reporting of confirmed cases
testing for FMD (PCR)

epidemiological updates

7 November

CSA appears before the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee to answer questions on FMD

OST November 2001