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Rowland Raymond Kao

Sir Timothy O'Shea Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology and Data Science, The University of Edinburgh

I am a mathematical biologist who studies infectious disease dynamics, mainly with respect to the role of demography in the spread and persistence of livestock diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease, bovine tuberculosis, scrapie, BSE and avian influenza in poultry but also in other systems involved both humans and wildlife, with an emphasis on zoonotic diseases.

This work includes the development of theoretical models of disease transmission on social networks and applications to the transmission of infectious diseases using simple differential equation models, analysis of social networks, statistics and simulations. Increasingly, it involves the integrated analysis of genetic and epidemiological data to determine the characteristics of disease outbreaks, with bovine Tuberculosis being a lead example. I am also interested in the development of real-time parameter estimation techniques during the course of disease outbreaks. This research integrates demographic and spatial/geographic data for all large livestock in the UK, detailed information regarding the movements of livestock amongst agricultural premises and molecular epidemiology. Much of the activity I am involved in considers the risks of disease transmission asssociated with livestock movements, in particular, identifying risky activities and the implications of controlling them.

As such my research integrates a wide variety of topics, most importantly the analysis of networks, but also elements of human behaviour (why do farmers move livestock the way they do, and what would happen if the conditions under which they moved livestock, changed), risk-based surveillance (can we use livestock movements and other forms of contact to identify individual farms most at risk of disease, and/or of transmitting it) and parameter inference (from observed disease data, can we estimate the relative and absolute importance of different routes of contact).


  • 2017–2020
    Professor, University of Edinburgh
  • 2009–2017
    Professor, University of Glasgow
  • 2007–2014
    Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, University of Glasgow
  • 2003–2007
    Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, University of Oxford

Grants and Contracts

  • 2018
    Thinking forward through the past: Linking science, social science and the humanities to inform the sustainable reduction of endemic disease in British livestock farming
    Senior Investigator
    Funding Source:
    Wellcome Trust
  • 2017
    Bilateral BBSRC-SFI: Tackling a multi-host pathogen problem - phylodynamic analyses of the epidemiology of M. bovis in Britain and Ireland
    Principal Investigator
    Funding Source:
    Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
  • 2016
    Development and testing of Operational Models of Bovine Tuberculosis in British Cattle and Badgers - Phases III & IV
    Project Lead
    Funding Source:
    Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs