Society funds may save science scheme

May 2, 1997

AN INTERNATIONAL science collaboration programme, heavily used by British academics, may get help from the Geological Society following the withdrawal of United Kingdom government funding, writes Julia Hinde.

The International Geological Correlation Programme, run by Unesco, encourages collaboration between international geologists, many from the developing world.

Until recently the Government helped fund the scheme, which benefits at least 200 British scientists, with an annual grant from the Overseas Development Ad-ministration paid through the Royal Society. The Government does not belong to Unesco although the Labour party has said that it would seek to rejoin.

The cut, which came into effect this year, has been condemned by many in the geological world who point out that British scientists are involved in one in five IGCP papers.

In a letter to the Geological Society, Edward Derbyshire, research professor at London University's Royal Holloway and Bedford College and also chairman of the IGCP scientific board, wrote that the cut had caused dismay and confusion.

He added that collaborators, particularly from poorer nations who fund the scheme through Unesco membership, were "unable to comprehend what the motives of the UK might be in withdrawing from such a recognisably efficient and successful programme, funds amounting to rather less than one UK professorial salary per year."

Wolfgang Eder, director of Unesco's division of earth sciences, added that British scientists were using the scheme, but that their government was not paying.

An ODA spokesman said the decision to cut funding came in the light of the 1994 Pergau judgment, when it was decided the grant "did not aim to bring benefits directly to people in poor countries".

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