The Need for Synergy and Value Creation in Contemporary Vector Research and Control

Bart G.J. Knols and Ingeborg van Schayk

Abstract Contemporary research in the field of medical entomology is hampered by systems thinking, besides work processes and organizational structures that demand focus and inhibit creative and innovative initiatives. This leads to tunnel vision, limited lateral thinking, and forced attention to minutia with limited added value. PhD projects, in particular, are severely affected by this. Students focus on a piece of work for 3-4 years to find themselves an expert on a subject of limited importance before entering post-doc life. There are simple ways to encourage lateral thinking in science and open up strategic space for unconventional, exciting and stimulating research that matters.

Here we focus on various examples of lateral approaches to create synergy (use or application of knowledge or practices from non-related fields) and subsequent added value (appropriation of that knowledge, practice or process to deliver a real benefit to your own field of research). We describe why research on genetically-engineered mosquitoes, in spite of absence of proof-of-principle, became widely considered as a potential break-through in disease control. Discarded approaches to reduce vector-host contact, for instance the use of physical barriers in house design, experience the opposite; it is hard to generate renewed interest for methods that have proven capable of substantially reducing transmission. Even larval control, with dramatic historical successes, suffers from high-tech scientific developments that seek to achieve the same goal. We cover the search for human kairomones for trap/bait development and biological control agents to control adult mosquitoes and the subsequent discovery of a fungal entomopathogen used against grasshoppers that kills mosquitoes; other examples of synergy and value creation are presented.

Keywords Medical entomology ■ Synergy ■ Value creation ■ Innovation ■ Creativity

Laboratory of Entomology, Wageningen University & Research Centre, 6700 EH, Wageningen,

The Netherlands e-mail: [email protected]

P.W. Atkinson (ed.), Vector Biology, Ecology and Control,

DOI 10.1007/978-90-481-2458-9_5, © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

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