Professor Roy Anderson - Questions and concerns remain "models abused in the interests of scientific opportunism..."
Too many animals were killed in the name of elections and mathematics. .....
Roger Windsor (MBE. MA (Cantab), BSc (Edin) BVM&S, MRCVS) in a speech, read on his behalf, to the Central Veterinary Society "..MAFF decided to follow EU advice and stuck to 3 km which more than doubled the number of animals that were killed... Roy Anderson should be called, not the Professor of Epidemiology, but the Professor of Extermination at Imperial College, London. I understand that he subsequently revised his model and came to the conclusion that the virus travelled no more than 500 metres. Too many animals ... were killed in the name of elections and mathematics. .." See Speech
Why was Anderson's Mathematical model used to drive the 2001 FMD policy? Anderson effectively took over the direction of the control policy, based on computer projections produced by his team but how his team gained precedence over others is rather curious.
In 2001 Prof. Anderson's research team included Dr Christl Donnelly, a statistician, who just happened to have published in October 2000 in Veterinary Science an analytical paper on the 1967 foot and mouth epidemic, one month before FMD was officially recognised to be in the UK.
As Richard North said in July 2001, this
".. effectively staked a claim for Anderson's team as having some expertise in FMD. And when the current FMD epidemic was finally detected in February, Anderson was extremely quick off the mark. By the end of the month, unasked and uninvited, he had assembled his team at Imperial College and had it working up computer models of the epidemic. By 6 March, his team was ready to make a presentation of its 'findings'. ... to Sir John Krebs of the Food Standards Agency, who had arranged a meeting for that purpose. ... ... FMD, being an animal disease, was entirely outside his remit yet, for some reason, no-one from MAFF - which was responsible for controlling the disease - was invited to the meeting.
...Anderson and Krebs were not strangers. Both had worked in the Zoology Department in Oxford University. Secondly, both were Fellows of the Royal Society. Thirdly, Anderson had worked closely with another Oxford scientist, Professor Sir Robert May, currently President of the Royal Society and previous Govt Chief Scientist, and had collaborated with him .....on 23 March 2001, a mere month after the epidemic had been detected by MAFF, Krebs managed to arrange another meeting. This time MAFF was invited, in the form of Jim Scudamore, Chief Veterinary Officer. They heard presentations from Neil Ferguson and colleagues from Anderson's team, from Mark Woolhouse of the University of Edinburgh, and opinions from experts at the Institute of Animal Health and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency.
Also present at the meeting was Professor David King, the current Chief Scientific Adviser, alumni of Cambridge University and successor to Sir Robert May. Needless to say, King - whose speciality is 'surface chemistry' - was a member of the Royal Society. King almost certainly owed his position as Chief Scientist to May, as did Krebs his appointment as head of the Food Standards Agency...."
If Anderson was after favours - such as a 'slice of the action' on FMD - he certainly knew the right people; and possibly had the right 'leverage'. ..." Read in full
Dr Paul Kitching, then at the Animal Health Institute at Pirbright, told Channel 4 News that the new projections were almost worthless - and also pointed out how conveniently the projected end of the outbreak had been adjusted May to June ( The General Election had been moved from May to June). The government insisted on the "independent expertise" of Professor Anderson, a scientist, it said, of unimpeachable reputation.
models were not fit for the purpose of predicting the course of the epidemic and the effects of control measures. The models also remain unvalidated...
Use and abuse of mathematical models: an illustration from the 2001 foot and mouth disease epidemic in the United Kingdom
R.P. Kitching , M.V. Thrusfield & N.M. Taylor
Rev. sci. tech. Off. int. Epiz., 2006, 25
"...The epidemic and its control resulted in the death of approximately ten million animals, public disgust with the magnitude of the slaughter, and political resolve to adopt alternative options, notably including vaccination, to control any future epidemics. The UK experience provides a salutary warning of how models can be abused in the interests of scientific opportunism...models were used as strong support for the implementation of the contiguous cull. The authors of this paper argue that the models were not fit for the purpose of predicting the course of the epidemic and the effects of control measures. The models also remain unvalidated... .... scientific experts must be accountable, not only to government ministers but also to other experts. To date, this has not occurred in the context of the 2001 epidemic. ... ."
Influenced non-vaccination policy? Although one of the prime advocates of routine vaccination, and Roy Anderson has worked for major pharmaceutical companies which produce most of the world's vaccines, his stance on vaccination against FMD - (he said that 'Immunisation would not help much because it allows the disease to spread from an infected farm, given the inevitable delay that would occur between confirmation and vaccination') - was listened to with deference. In spite of the availability of a vaccine bank (5 million doses) in Europe, able and willing to supply the UK, in spite of the pleas of experts who had experience of using vaccines successfully against FMD, in spite of the pleas of scientists and farmers and Prof Fred Brown FRS OBE who urged, "The present vaccines are excellent. I am speaking on my own behalf, I do not work for a drug company. They start to give protection in about four to five days and they are getting better. There is a strong argument for [vaccination] now and in the future." vaccination was not used and millions of healthy animals were condemned.. As the Devon vet, Wendy Vere, said: "Their idea was to control the disease by culling in contiguous farms. That is fine if you are sitting in front of a computer screen in London. However, it is different on the ground. A person in London will just see the numbers and will say that they have been taken out. That is why it was carnage by computer
Roy Anderson's interests included being a director and 30 percent shareholder of the International Biomedical and Health Sciences Consortium. He was a scientific consultant to Abbott Pharmaceuticals, a major US company. Additionally, he was consultant to SKS Scientific (presumably Smith Kline Beecham), and had links with the Hamburg Institute of Tropical Scientific Advisory Board Medicine. While a Trustee and director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases Professor Anderson applied for research grants from the Wellcome Trust. In 2000, the Wellcome Trust began investigating links between Anderson, IBHSC and Abbotts Pharmaceuticals, saying "we have policies to make sure governors are independent and deal with grants fairly". The investigations would also consider whether Wellcome-funded facilities had been used improperly to do work for drugs companies.
Slanderous allegations ?
In 2000 Dr Sunetra Gupta, a young fellow scientist at Oxford, was accused by Roy Anderson of having a relationship with a professor. During discussions with the Oxford University appointments committee, Professor Anderson suggested she, in order to get selected as a readership in epidemiology, was having an affair with the Head of Zoology, Paul Harvey, a leading member of the selection committee. It was a lie - but it took Dr Gupta nine months to get a retraction. In a letter to her, Prof Anderson, admitted that there was "no foundation in truth whatsoever" in his comments. See Princeton report (half way down page) ".....Soon after she won the readership, she says Prof Anderson began to behave in a "peculiar" way towards her. "He tried to take away the office that came with the job and he took away the responsibility of running an MSc course without telling me. It was starting to be a bit ridiculous." "
Initially suspended on full pay, Professor Anderson subsequently resigned his posts at Oxford.
2006 ~ Roy Anderson is knightedUnder a Telegraph headline; Honours for those who 'work and serve at the sharp end' we read: "Prof Roy Anderson, chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence, is also awarded a knighthood. He is best known for his research on computer models used to formulate policy to deal with epidemics, notably Aids, Sars and BSE. He helped to formulate the controversial foot and mouth cull five years ago."
and from the Imperial College news release : "Professor Anderson is currently seconded as Chief Scientific Advisor to the Ministry of Defence and was awarded his knighthood for epidemiological research, studying the spread of infectious diseases such as AIDS, BSE, foot and mouth and SARS, and providing the government with advice on how to tackle them..."
June 25 2007 ~ Prof Sir Roy Anderson, has been named the next rector of Imperial College, London and will take over next summer...
An Imperial College News Release (21 Jun 2007) tells us "....Sir Roy began his academic career as a student at Imperial in the 1960s, receiving a first class Honours degree in zoology in 1968 and his PhD in parasitology in 1971. He has spent much of his career at the College, becoming one of its youngest professors in 1982, at the age of 35.
In 1984 he was made Head of Imperial's Department of Biology, and in 1986 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1993 he moved to the University of Oxford to become Head of the Department of Zoology and Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the Epidemiology of Infectious Disease, before returning to Imperial in 2000 to set up and lead the College's new Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology. He was seconded to the Ministry of Defence as its Chief Scientific Adviser in 2004 and was knighted in the 2006 Queen's Birthday Honours."
November 17 2009 ~ The Rector of Imperial College London has resigned after just 16 months in the post
The Times: ".. Sir Roy Anderson, who is one of the briefest-serving heads of the university, said that he was stepping down to concentrate on his research... His resignation from the £370,000-a-year position shocked staff and students and the university's governing council said it had accepted his decision with "deep regret" ... Sir Roy also serves on the Scientific Advisory Group of Emergencies and advised on the swine flu pandemic this summer.
Critics accused him of a conflict of interest because of his role on the board of GlaxoSmithKline, the drug company that supplies the NHS with flu vaccines and antivirals.
.... The University and College Union (UCU) urged the university to use the change of leadership to reassess plans to make "damaging cuts" to the faculty of medicine.... Sir Roy took up the top position at Imperial in July 2008 after being forced to resign from the University of Oxford in 2000. An inquiry there found him in breach of rules by failing to disclose his business interests as director and shareholder of International Biomedical and Health Sciences Consortium - an Oxford-based biomedical consultancy that had awarded grants to his research centre. ..."