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Some marine science is being sunk.

Despite considerable lobbying from British scientists, Britain's Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) was unable to drum up the requisite $2.5 million by Oct. 1 to join the international Ocean Drilling Program (ODP). That leaves the United States with only four (Canada, France, Japan and West Germany) of the five international partners needed to help support ODP's $32.5 million annual operating budget. That also leaves the United States, which already contributes $20 million a year, with a larger bill to foot.

According to Alexander Sutherland of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Washington, D.C., the extra money will probably come from a companion U.S. science program that supports much of the activities required before ODP cruises such as surveys of drill sites, development of instruments and workshops. This program was funded at $6.85 million during fiscal year '86.

Britain's failure to meet an earlier deadline to join ODP (SN: 4/20/85, p. 249) has already taken its toll. "We had to cut back last fiscal year by $2 million, in a series of across-the-board cuts," says Sutherland. A past concern was the Leg 107, hard rock drilling into the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, would be scrapped for lack of funds. But this cruise was saved and the ODP drillship the JOIDES Resolution will be at the ridge from October through December. However, ODP has no more money to purchase hard rock drilling equipment or to develop the technology for drilling into hot rocks. This was one determining factor that led to the cancellation of Leg 111 to the East Pacific Rise off the coast of South America, originally scheduled for next summer.

With Britain out of the picture at least for now, the ODP has been courting other nations. A nine-country consortium of the European Science Foundation has raised two-thirds of the money needed for a full partnership. It had been hoped that the Australians would kick in the extra $1 million needed to complete the membership fee but they have been unable to do so. Now the European countries are determining if they can muster the funds themselves.

On a bright note, the prospect of the Soviets signing up became more likely when, according to Sutherland, a senior Russian geologist last month visited the executive committee of JOIDES (Joint Oceanographic Institutions Deep Earth Sampling), which oversees ODP.ODP has full clearance from the U.S. government for such a partnership, he says, and NSF plans to send the Soviets a formal letter of invitation within the next few weeks.

As for the British, they are still struggling to find the funds. Britain's Department of Energy has been trying to coax the oil industry into offering more money than it has in the past, but the oil companies don't appear to be very enthusiastic. NERC reportedly has placed the ODP membership second only to university research grants in its budget request, which will be considered in the next two months.

In the meantime, British scientists have lost their observer status, which enabled them to keep tabs on ODP planning but not to participate in cruises. Sutherland says that throughout the funding ordeal British scientists have urged ODP to expel them in order to show their governmenta that they can't tag along for free. Sutherland also notes that many British marine scientists, disillusioned with their country's funding quandary, have left the United Kingdom. "You'll find it throughout JOIDES," he says. "There are British accents in Canada and the United States in some of the big institutions. ... It's a bad brain drain for the U.K."
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Title Annotation:Great Britain fails to join Ocean Drilling Program
Author:Weisburd, Stefi
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 19, 1985
Words:597
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