BSPP - Grand Challenges in Plant Pathology Interdisciplinary Study Group

This conference directly follows the BSPP presidential conference which runs from the 12th - 13th September 2016. Click here to view more details.


Farms, forests and natural ecosystems are subject to significant losses and disruption due to plant diseases. Even when control measures are available, their efficacy may last only a few years as pathogens evolve to overcome them. To combat these threats it is essential to develop innovative new approaches that bring together expertise from multiple disciplines, allowing us to understand the mechanisms underpinning disease development, and enabling rapid detection and identification of existing and emerging pathogens and the development of novel strategies for durable disease control.

For further information please contact Prof. Gail Preston,

Rationale and Format

The Grand Challenges in Plant Pathology Interdisciplinary Study Group aims to bring together a group of outstanding graduate researchers who have the motivation, creativity and skills needed to tackle the most important challenges in plant disease research. Attendees will be challenged to work together in collaborative, interdisciplinary teams to propose novel solutions to real problems posed by industry and non-academic organisations. Attendees will learn about recent technological developments that have the potential to transform plant pathology research, and about the legislative, ethical and practical considerations that must be taken into account in developing and commercialising new technologies.

The workshop draws on the expertise of the BBSRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnerships, which provide world-class training for bioscience researchers in the UK, and the British Society for Plant Pathology, which supports the professional interests of plant pathologists in the UK and worldwide. Industrial and non-academic participants will benefit from the opportunity to obtain fresh perspectives on important questions and to engage with and inspire the next generation of plant pathologists.


The workshop will be held at the University of Oxford from Sept 14th-16th, with accommodation available at St. Hugh's College, Oxford. Attendees will optionally be able to attend the Presidential Meeting of the British Society for Plant Pathology, held in Oxford from Sept 12th-13th, 2016. The main venue for the workshop will be the University of Oxford's Doctoral Training Centre.

How to Apply

Graduate students seeking to attend the workshop can apply as individuals or as interdisciplinary pairs of students in which a maximum of one student is currently working on a research project directly relating to plant pathology as part of their PhD. Individual students or pairs of students will be selected competitively to attend the workshop from those that apply and notified of the outcome of their application by June 2016. In the final cohort of students selected to attend the workshop 50% of attendees will be selected from applicants currently working on research topics directly relating to plant pathology. The remaining 50% will be selected from applicants working in a wide range of disciplines, ranging from physical, environmental and social sciences through to other fields of bioscience, including fields such as agronomy, entomology, epidemiology and toxicology.

Industrial and non-academic delegates can apply to attend the workshop as problem proposers, presenters or facilitators. We will select a set of wide-ranging problems from those offered. Problems posed should clearly define the challenge and its broader significance. Presenters will be invited to provide insight into transformative technologies, and the ethical and commercial context of plant pathology research. Facilitators will assist students in their discussions and in developing their understanding of the issues involved. Industrial and non-academic delegates interested in attending and contributing to the workshop should contact Prof. Gail Preston ( in the first instance to discuss their potential contribution.

The submission deadline is the 27th May - click here to download the application form.