Centre for Doctoral Training – Environmental Solutions to Zoonoses

Closing Date: 29/07/2022

Funding to deliver a new interdisciplinary Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in environmental drivers and solutions for zoonoses to provide 48 studentships in total over the course of three annual intakes.

A call has been announced by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Medical Research Council (MRC) to deliver a new cross-council Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in environmental drivers and solutions for zoonoses.

There has been a recent increase in zoonotic diseases, which is in part driven by the degradation of the natural environment, through land use change, agriculture, loss of biodiversity, wildlife exploitation, resource extraction, climate change and other stressors.

A One Health approach (incorporating the health of people, animals and the shared environment) and protection of the natural environment may prevent future outbreaks. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published a report entitled Preventing the next pandemic – Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission in July 2020 and there has been a recent announcement of a strengthened partnership for One Health, bringing together UNEP with existing tripartite partnership members: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, World Organisation for Animal Health and World Health Organization. This partnership recognises that the responsibility to reduce the risks from emerging or re-emerging zoonotic infections is in the hands of all such sectors.

This CDT call is offering funding for a notional 16 studentships a year (amounting to 48 studentships in total over the course of three annual intakes). The CDT model is designed to encourage a translational approach by encouraging academic and non-academic partners to unite around common challenges. The CDT will foster a community of researchers who, working within a One Health framing, will identify integrated solutions that put an environmental approach at their core. This is to understand and prevent emergence, spill-over and transmission of zoonoses from environmental reservoirs and thereby create environmental barriers to transmission.

Training provided by the CDT should cross the NERC, BBSRC and MRC remits. This must be relevant to the ambitions to detect and disrupt the emergence and spread of zoonotic disease articulated within:

  • The ‘tackling infections’ theme in the UKRI strategy.
  • Related themes in disciplinary council strategic NERC, BBSRC and MRC delivery plans. With the need for this CDT to contribute to strengthening environmental features of One Health approaches, training should include interdisciplinary approaches at the interface between environmental sciences and other disciplines (particularly human and animal health, and social sciences).

Training delivered by this CDT must align with the areas specifically outlined in this opportunity but may build on existing training infrastructure and take advantage of the networks developed through existing and past UKRI-funded interdisciplinary investments on tackling zoonoses.

This emergent field of research (in environment-focused solutions to preventing zoonoses) requires new theoretical and applied approaches to bring together and embed tools and technology from a range of disciplines and research areas. This could include: environmental informatics, bioinformatics, pathogen biology, evolution, ecology, epidemiology, economics, and principles of behaviour and community change.

Skills in capturing and using diverse and complex datasets ranging across levels of complexity and origins will be key to successfully predict the nodes in disease spread pathways. While the development of a skilled research community is core to this training need, this community must apply the acquired knowledge and use approaches developed to deliver ‘real world’ solutions as a key training and output of a CDT. Training opportunities are therefore required in innovation uptake, and the ability to take on secondments, interdisciplinary exchanges and technology transfer opportunities must be provided.

Proposals must outline a coherent training programme through which students will both undertake individual research projects and receive cohort-level training in cross-cutting skills.

Individual student research projects must take a One Health approach to the challenge and therefore include multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary components as appropriate, with further interdisciplinary approaches explored through the wider training programme. In this way, students will be exposed to techniques, perspectives and context from all the relevant disciplines.

Funding body Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Maximum value Discretionary
Reference ID S23972
Category Medical Research
Biotechnology and Biology
Natural Environment
Fund or call Fund