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Do we need a "degree" for biosafety? [#793]
Greetings from Iran!
My name is Behzad Ghareyazie, President Biosafety Society of Iran. I enjoy the valuable contributions so far received. I wish to open a new thread witha sking your opinion about this important question that do we realy need a degree granting programme from universities (MSc or PhD) in Biosafety? Does it help in capacity building in RA in developing countries or it will add to the existing problems? If the answer to this question (requirement for a degree) is positive, then we may need to reply tot he following questions as well:
- How many degree holders (in Biosafety) every country needs?
- What will the graduates from this programme do? Do we need to create a position for these graduated people inside the government (for example as regulatory authorities?) or we should just let them to find their own job?
- What the proper course content should be? Should it include a comprehensive introduction and understanding of "Modern Biotechnology"? If not, how can possibly some one be able to review the molecular characterization of an LMO included in the RA submitted by the applicant for approval.
- Do you consider the training of exisiting regulators and authorities with short-term hands-on training courses (e.g one week to one month in period) as a good alternative to the degree granting programmes by the universities?
posted on 2008-11-22 10:44 UTC by Mr. Behzad Ghareyazie, Iran (Islamic Republic of)
RE: Do we need a "degree" for biosafety? [#795]
I think Dr. Ghareyazie raised a very important question that deserves deep consideration. Biosafety is a multidisciplinary issue that requires a range of academic capacities, including the capacity to conduct risk assessment. I have been a member of the Brazilian National Technical Biosafety Commission that includes representatives from different governmental sectors and representatives from civil society, including scientific societies. There is a requirement for a PhD degree to participate and about half of the members are scientists. My experience was that, although all the members were chosen because of their high qualifications in their specific fields, most of them did not have any experience in conducting risk assessment, which is a science field by itself. They had to learn how to do it by gaining experience while acting in the commission. In my opinion their contribution could be much more effective if they had the opportunity to attend an intensive, advanced course on biosafety. This could be offered, for instance, as part of the curriculum of graduate courses such as in Genetics, Botany, Entomology, Molecular Biology, Ecology, etc. Such training is also useful for scientists wishing to conduct research on ecological and food safety risk assessment, or for GMO developers’ institutions, including public institutions. For instance, molecular biologist would gain a lot by taking an Ecology course and Ecologist would also gain by taking a Molecular Biology course.
On the other hand, there is the work of the biosafety analysts (process analysts) and the inspectors. These positions may not require a high academic degree, such as a PhD, but they do require a good level of biosafety training. In this case, a graduate course, for instance, a MD (a Masters degree without a thesis requirement), could be the most appropriate. In each country there may not have many such of these positions available, so the courses could be contracted by the Government as demanded.
posted on 2008-11-24 11:46 UTC by Dr. Eliana Maria Gouveia Fontes, Brazil
RE: Do we need a "degree" for biosafety? [#820]
Good points there by Dr. Elana to do advanced short term biosafety courses by relevant experts.
posted on 2008-11-28 15:09 UTC by Ms. Anita James, Saint Lucia
RE: Do we need a "degree" for biosafety? [#813]
My name is Esmeralda Prat, I work for a biotechnology developer, but I am speaking here from my activities at the European Biosafety Association (EBSA).
Do you need a degree in biosafety?  I personally think that more realistic is to have a certification program in biosafety that could be provided at country level or by certain internationally recognized organizations.  This certification could be accomplished by coursework and/or demonstration of experience.
EBSA has been analysing the situation of the biosafety professional mainly in the contained use area, but this can be seen as a model for the environmental biosafety professional.  EBSA found that there is no definition of the role and responsibilities of the biosafety professional nor is there defined competencies required which are the starting point for defining a curriculum. EBSA is waiting for funding approval from the European Commission to launch a CEN Workshop Agreement to define all these aspects through the participation of representatives from competent authorities and professionals. A similar process could be envisioned to define the professional responsible for carrying out risk assessment and risk management.
With a good understanding of the curriculum needs of this professional, training can be developed.  There are several existing models on how to do this training that could be considered: the UNIDO program that is partly residential but primarily done through e-learning and which involves assignments and a thesis; Brazil has many universities that have incorporated biosafety courses in their curriculum and also have post-graduate diploma studies.
posted on 2008-11-28 12:01 UTC by Ms. Esmeralda Prat, CLI representation
RE: Do we need a "degree" for biosafety? [#819]
I would like to add here that the training of regulators and short term attachments in RA/RM at relevant institutions would be a good alternative to the degree idea for biosafety.
posted on 2008-11-28 15:07 UTC by Ms. Anita James, Saint Lucia
RE: Do we need a "degree" for biosafety? [#824]
While each university can decide if their curriculum should include special biosafety degrees, from my experience what we actually need are biosafety courses not biosafety degrees. Even more, we need including biosafety topics in existing courses in various fields (they are mostly included in biotechnology but what about ecology, evolution, genetics, environmental studies). This is much harder to detect in various surveys and hard to implement, but I think that inclusion of biosafety topics in curricula of various academic and degree-granting non-biotechnology courses should be our main task under the Cartagena protocol and capacity building activities promoted by SCBD. We need specialists from various fields with basis knowledge of biosafety issues such as risk assessment.
Of course, there is also need for short time non-degree granting courses for specific target groups (present members of national biosafety committees, government officials, customs etc.) which is already mentioned by dr
posted on 2008-11-28 20:41 UTC by Dr Aleksej Tarasjev, Serbia