The second meeting of the BSPP's Council, on 6 May, was the first under a Labour Government. The Conservative Party came to power in 1979 when the Society was two years away from its formation a sobering thought. We will have to wait and see what effect the new administration will have on the funding of research and biological research in particular. With pressure on the spending ministries the omens do not look particularly bright, but perhaps we can create a climate where we will be able to spend more time on delivering research than seeking funding.
As I wrote in my New Year's message, many of our efforts have been focused on the 7th International Congress of Plant Pathology, now only 12 months away. As Secretary of the Organising Committee I am able to keep a close watch on progress. Under the meticulous stewardship of David Royle, our Programme Chairman, he and his team have put together an exciting and stimulating programme, details of which are now available on our Website.
The Second Announcement should have been published by the time this Newsletter reaches you. It contains details about registration, submission of papers and, very importantly, accommodation. We have secured reasonably priced and comfortable accommodation at university halls of residence. With an anticipated 2000 delegates, rooms will be limited, so it will be prudent to register and book accommodation at the earliest opportunity.
I know most of you will have been saving up for this event since Montreal in 1993, so price will be no object! However, as the Congress precedes the Edinburgh International Festival, you will want to stay on and savour the delights of this exciting annual event. Post Congress tours and Scientific Excursions have also been planned as well as the usual social events.
The Society has establish a substantial fund from its reserves to provide financial assistance to those members who will have difficulty in raising all the money required. Details of where to obtain an application form will be found in the Second Announcement and also on the Society's Web pages.
We have received one application to the Innovation Fund. We have awarded £2500 to Dr Paul Nicholson of the John Innes Centre, to develop suitable pathosystems for use in schools in collaboration with Dr Mary MacDonald of Science and Plants for Schools. We look forward to receiving news of progress on this important project.
Presidential Meeting, York, 16th-18th December 1997
The programme for December meeting is nearly complete. It is entitled "Plant Pathology Global Perspectives of an Applied Science". It will also host the AGM, Garrett Memorial Lecture this year to be given by Prof Bill Fry from Cornell on the subject of "Forecasting the End or a Means" - and the PH Gregory Prize for young scientists presenting their first paper at a major meeting. We have raised the value of the prize from £100 to £250 in recognition of the effort that goes in to what are always excellent presentations delivered under great pressure. Because the meeting covers all aspects of plant pathology, papers on all subjects are welcome. This also applies to the poster session where a wide range of contributions on all subject areas will be sought. This is a good opportunity to present work to a wide audience and test your ideas prior to ICPP98.
One of the features of the December meeting will be a halfday visit to the new £120 m Central Science Laboratory at Sand Hutton, just outside York. The Central Science Laboratory plays a critical role in maintaining and strengthening the integrity of Plant Health in the UK. In England and Wales, CSL contributes to an integrated plant health service through consultancy, advice, certification, diagnostic laboratory services and by transferring expertise through training.
The aim is to see the new facilities and to meet the staff of the Plant Health Group, whose work includes plant health aspects of imports, exports, eradication and containment campaigns, certification schemes for vegetative planting material, controls on genetically manipulated plant pathogens, licences, risk assessment and international cooperation, the practical use and development of geographic information systems, disease surveys, forecasting, virology, potential for pesticide optimisation and disease diagnosis.
Participation in the Society's activities
Participation is more than either passive or active attendance at the Society's conferences and submitting excellent scripts to Plant Pathology. It is also about influencing the direction of the Society and the use to which it puts is funds.
Members of Council are put there for two main reasons the first is to run the Society as efficiently as possible to ensure a good scientific programme, a successful journal and good stewardship of its financial resources. The second reason is to be a voice of the members of the Society. You do not have to be on Council to influence these decisions. Members of Council are very receptive to ideas from members, we just don't get enough of them. Most members of Council are now on email and it is very easy to communicate with them.
We try to keep you informed of what we are doing, but we would like to know if we are doing what you want. Are we using your funds appropriately? Are you happy with the journal, with the MMPOL initiative, our Website, the various funds that have been set up to provide travel assistance, innovations, bursaries and fellowships? Unless you comment we have to assume that you are happy with what we are doing.
I have recently received one or two ideas from members and I will be raising them at Council for discussion. One of them has already been implemented and that was the raising of the PH Gregory Prize to £250. So we do take note of your ideas.
University of Reading, Reading, England
22nd August 1997
I have spent part of the summer sitting in a committee deciding how to cancel 10% by value of our libraries subscriptions to learned journals. We shall do it again next year; and the year after. The library budget has swollen about as much as it can, and the projection is for steady spending in real terms. But journal prices are rising at 10-15% per year. I had assumed that prices of paper or ink or rejection slips must be rising fast.
However, as part of our exercise, we were provided with costs of the journals, and I happened to have stored in a spreadsheet the prices from two years ago, when we last had to offer our sacrifices. I was intrigued to discover that journals fell into two clear categories. Those published by learned societies had inflated moderately - in some cases even becoming cheaper - while the commercial journals were not only much more expensive, but were inflating at extortionate rates of 20-30%. Thus, the destruction of our library as an instrument of education and research is happening simply to increase the profit streams of publishers with no commitment to dissemination of information for its own sake.
What is worse, we are conniving in this. If we referee for, or edit, or publish in a journal which steadily raises its prices unreasonably, we contribute to the process which is destroying the good coverage and the effectiveness of the UK university library system.
I would like to suggest that colleagues consider whether the price per page and the rate at which that price has increased are reasonable, before they submit papers to a journal, or accept editing or refereeing work from a journal. It seems to me that we have some power in this, and that we should exercise it. The penalty is small: almost all the journals with good 'impact factors' are published by or for learned societies or non-profit trusts. The gain could be considerable.
What do other colleagues think?