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Drilling program adrift without UK fee.

Drilling program adrift without UK fee

January--the deadline for countries, money in hand, to sign up for the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP)--has come and gone. Canada, France and West Germany have each kicked in $2.5 million, as promised, for full annual memberships. But with Leg 102 of ODP's drillship JOIDES Resolution (SN: 2/2/85, p. 68) well under way, the United Kingdom has yet to marshal its funds; the UK's Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) had tried unsuccessfully to persuade the country's Department of Energy, suffering from budget cuts, to reinstate its past contribution before the deadline.

Now the executive committee of JOIDES (Joint Oceanographic Institutions Deep Earth Sampling), which oversees ODP, is taking a hard line with the UK. In response to the UK's suggestion that it join as a part member, the committee recently passed a resolution that it would be "neither appropriate nor in the best interests of the program or other full members' for the UK's status to be anything short of its prior full partnership.

The unexpected loss of the UK's dues "has put a considerable pinch on our entire program,' says Al Sutherland of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Already, plans for buying some instruments --both land-based and for the ship--have been dropped and the hiring pace has slowed. JOIDES institutions are now scrambling to set priorities and devise cutback strategies that will be presented to NSF in about a week. One possibly big cut, says Sutherland, would be to omit hard rock drilling at the Mid-Atlantic ridge. "But that is so important to the program . . . [that] we'll do virtually anything before we have to drop it,' he adds. Instead, Sutherland anticipates across-the-board cuts.

In the meantime, the UK has set its hopes on joining in the fall, for the new U.S. fiscal year (which is six months out of phase with Britain's). This may come to pass if NERC is allowed to carry over funds from this UK fiscal year to the next. The NSF has just sent NERC a memorandum of understanding making the UK a candidate observer until October--provided that the UK will promise to join as a full member in the fall. This would enable UK scientists to keep abreast of planning, but denies them active participation in meetings and cruises unless they are specifically invited. JOIDES is firm, however, that observer status will not be extended beyond September.
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Title Annotation:Great Britain fails to contribute to Ocean Drilling Program
Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 20, 1985
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