I was happy to escape the Boston snow for a couple of days. The CPERI workshop at the sunny University of California San Diego (UCSD) was attended by researchers coming from a mixture of disciplines spanning history, geography, anthropology, sociology to political economy and management. What united the group was what seemed to be a self-identification as STS folks with an interest in political economy. Indeed the intention of this yearly workshop is to build a community and international program of research, to meet an intellectual as well as practical need for a new and revitalized study of the political economy of research and innovation. Much of the overarching sentiment of the two days, explicitly covered in the key-note and sum up, concerned the current standing of STS and inclusion of politics (and also economics, management, finance to some extent). The argument being that science has changed – as result of neoliberal, entrepreneurial or commercial pressures but STS has not caught up – so we have to study commercialization, and other aspects of its political economy. This also raised the question at the end as to whether there is an expertise problem in STS in having to now master economics and finance, post-science wars. One of the keynotes by historian/philosopher Philip Mirowski was about whether science studies faced another crisis, in defending science rather than critiquing it and how politics should not be superficially used in STS. This concern also came out in the other talks to varying degrees in both the subjects of enquiry and their treatment, which I’ve outlined below.
- Challenging standard accounts of innovation: such as policy embodiments in Responsible Research and Innovation (RR&I) where there are conceptually unresolved questions and also what low carbon transition in China might mean from the perspective of the rising middle classes.
- Building upon existing science policy ideas, but with a concentration on political dimensions: for ideal-type ‘narratives of science’ and ‘science policy framing’ and through a discourse analysis on the 2015 National Academy of Sciences reports on geoengineering to consider the discursive tools deployed.
- Rethinking the relations between innovation, the state and universities: This involved looking back at historical understandings of science and the state (g. as a central force in the Zionist movement). Today the ‘entrepreneurial state’ is promoted but what levels of intervention are we considering? Then there is the changing role of the university in regards to innovation and entrepreneurship, where ‘Translational Research’ is one example of commercialisation, externalisation and outsourcing.
- Exploring the economisation of life and the bioeconomy: included in this was my own topic Neglected Tropical Diseases, for which I covered scales of policy interaction. Another topic was on Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) the ‘GDP of health’ rendering life to economic value, and extending the rationality of market. There was also a conceptual enquiry as Dean Birch mentioned, where he explored the idea of assets in the bioeconomy rather than commodities.
Finally we were presented, through the second Keynote, to a history of San Diego from sociologist Mary Walshok on how civic culture has been important to the city. She spoke about how after the industrial revolution, people moved from midwest to west carrying anti-industrial sentiments and a quest for clean air rather than ‘dirty factories’ and ‘illiterate workers’. This had led to a civic culture that has encouraged innovation as an economic development strategy, through the construction of an enormous R&D infrastructure and use of prime land to build a renowned research centre. It was a nice touch to have a talk on where we were visiting. As social scientists there is often a curiosity about new places, the people and its history. We finished the day with a few hours left to stroll outside, view the La Jolla shoreline and a final debrief as the sun set with a burger on the beach. Samantha Vanderslott, March 2015
This is Challenging Neglect podcast series. We’re two university students from UCL and today we’re interviewing Dr Mary Moran. She’s the Executive Director of Policy Cures, which is a Research and Strategy Organisation, which she founded in 2004 after having worked in emergency medicine and on access to essential medicines. She’s also an expert adviser to the World Health Organisation among other organisations.
Mary, it would be great to start off with where you began with Policy Cures and what the intentions were for setting up that organisation?
MM: I set up Policy Cures ten years ago at the London School of Economics and I think what led me to do it was I had been working for Médecins Sans Frontières in an access to medicines campaign and reading a lot of material about research and development, and I just became aware that most of the stuff… what we were saying at MSF but also the industry was saying and a lot of the journals were saying that there wasn’t really much evidence for it. So there seemed to be a lot of advocacy and a lot of… you know, a lot of emotion and feeling and knowledge that something needed to be done but not much sort of neutral analysis.
This is the Challenging Neglect podcast series. I’m Erman Sozudogru and I’m Samantha Vanderslott. Today we are here with Conrad Keating who is the resident writer in Welcome Unit in Oxford. So, thank you very much for joining us today, Conrad. If you can tell us about your background as a historian, and later on we’ll come to your links with Neglect Tropical diseases. Thank you very much.
Thanks for having me along today. It’s very enjoyable and good to meet a new generation of people. My own background is that I’ve always studied history. I’m a professional historian. My first job was a school teacher, which I failed at, but I wanted an idea of public service, but I was poor at it. And then I joined the BBC where I worked in dramas and documentaries and later ended up working on news.
This is the Challenging Neglect podcast series. I’m Erman Sozudogru and I’m Samantha Vanderslott. We’re two PhD students from the Science and Technology Studies Department at UCL. Today we’re joined by Alex Broadbent, who’s a philosopher of science in University of Johannesburg in South Africa. Alex’s work on philosophy of epidemiology and causation in sciences, so Alex is the author of many papers on these topics, and he recently published his book, Philosophy of Epidemiology. Today, we are going to talk about neglected tropical diseases and how they play a part in his research, so welcome, Alex.
So, can you tell us a bit more about your research in general on Philosophy of Epidemiology, and then we can later on talk about how neglected diseases play a part in your research?
Sure, so I’m a Philosopher of Science by training, and I initially had no particular interest in epidemiology. I just… I kind of just stumbled across it and I sort of thought that, as philosophers sometimes do, you know, I’d be able to say a few useful things and then get on with doing some serious philosophy, and I just basically discovered that I was totally wrong.
This is the Challenging Neglect podcast series. I’m Samantha Vanderslott and I’m Erman Sozudogru. We are two PhD students from the Science and Technology Studies Department, UCL. Today we’re interviewing Professor Alan Fenwick who’s Professor of Tropical Parasitology at Imperial College in the UK. He’s also Director of the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) and he’s worked extensively, not just on research, but actual control of NTDs in Africa, so welcome Professor Alan Fenwick. Okay. Thank you. It’s a pleasure. Can we start by talking a bit about your background in Parasitology and Epidemiology and how you became interested in neglected tropical diseases specifically just to set the scene? It does go back rather a long way, but yes I started life actually as a chemist and in those days, 50 odds years ago, anyone who finished their first Honours Degree could go on and do a PhD, funding was available a lot easier than today, but one needed a topic and I was wanting to do something a little bit out of the ordinary and my supervisor suggested that I go to the School of Tropical Medicine because they had got some funding for looking at the chemistry of water and how copper salts would kill snails, and this seemed liked a very interesting project and I took it on.
Thank you to our speaker Dr Mary Moran, panelists Dr Simon Croft and Dr Conrad Keating, as well as Dr Brendan Clarke who chaired a great second workshop at UCL on the 10th of December 2014. Mary’s slides are now available on the website, as is the podcast recording of the workshop (with special thanks to Lauren Hutchinson and Henry Hocking for recording this for us).
Dr Mary Moran Slides
Transcripted by Chowa Nkonde
This is the Challenging Neglect podcast series. I’m Samantha Vanderslott and I’m Erman Sozudogru and we are two PhD students from the Science and Technology Studies department at University College London and today we are joined by Dr. Peter Hotez who is President of the Sabine Vaccine Institute and Founding Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. As well as his many contributions to the field of Public Health, he has been credited with coining the term “Neglected Tropical Diseases.”
Welcome Dr. Peter Hotez! First of we’d like to hear about your background in Tropical Medicine and how you became interested in Global Health and policy, specifically with NTDs?
PH: Well, I’ve had a lifelong interest in Neglected Tropical Diseases although they were not originally called that. I’ve had interest in tropical diseases ever since I was in my adolescence, that’s when I knew I wanted to study tropical diseases. I had read Microbe Hunters as a child and that had a big influence and by the time I was 13/14 years old I had a copy of “Tropical Diseases” on my night table. So it’s kind of an odd beginning. As an undergraduate at Yale University where I studied Molecular Biochemistry and Biophysics and worked in a research lab on Human African Trypanosomiasis and then went to the Rockefeller University and Cornell Medical College for their MBPhD program where I began to work on Hookworm infection. So I’ve had a lifelong interest also in trying to develop vaccines for helminth infections (another neglected tropical disease) and that actually began when I was MBPhD student. So I very much started in Tropical Medicine as a Laboratory Investigator with no real intention of becoming a Global Health advocate; that actually happened much later in life.
We’ve just finished interviews with Dr Peter Hotez, leading advocate and expert in global health, Director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, Professor Alex Broadbent the Head of Philsoophy at the University of Johannesburg and Professor Alan Fenwick the Director of the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative. Each interview focuses on the burden of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) from a policy, philosophical and epidemiological lens, respectively.
Up next, we shall delve into the fields of history, biomedical and technological innovation and more, facilitating an increasingly diverse conversation amonsgt experts in their fields. Adding fresh insight into the discourse surrounding NTDs and how we can tackle them effectively.
How does a disease become neglected?
Following the accepted definition, neglect is seen largely in a monetary sense; a comparative lack of funding. However, diseases can also be neglected in terms of a lack of…
- Policy initiatives
- Drug development/supply
In the case of neglected tropical diseases, the main reasons for their neglect tends to correlate strongly with the low socioeconomic status of the affected populations. Hotez et. al, describe these populations as not just the poorest in the world, but also having a low visibility and little political voice.
Alongside these compounding factors, the diseases associated with this group are often inextricably linked with social and behavioural patterns.
“There is no precise and broadly accepted definition of neglected disease,” states Professor Alex Broadbent, Head of Philosophy at the University of Johannesburg. Currently, the class of ‘neglected tropical diseases’ or NTDs, ranges from soil-transmitted helminthiasis to snakebites. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes the varied classification as such:
“They are named neglected because these disease persist exclusively in the poorest and the most marginalized communities, and have been largely eliminated elsewhere and thus are often forgotten… Most can be prevented or eliminated.”
(World Health Organization, 2010b)