Wetenschap - 8 februari 1996

English Summary

English Summary

  • Civil wars in Somalia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Liberia and Chechnya have led to requests for disaster management from western governments and relief organisations. Few scientists are familiar with the changes that occur in disaster areas, because they tend to concentrate on structural development processes. This has to change, according to some relief organisations. As disasters become more complex, widespread and long-term, universities like the WAU should study disaster management, and its effects on long-term development. Development workers should no longer criticise emergency aid, with its high energy costs as electric equipment is brought into the disaster area. Professor Anke Niehof of the Department of Household Studies explains that a new scientific paradigm should link the principles of emergency help to development work.

  • The WUB has once again produced a hit parade of the scientific productivity of the WAU departments. The various WAU departments are usually ranked according to their publication figures, external funding and number of scientists, but the departments have now merged their research activities in combined graduate schools. The Wageningen Institute of Animal Science was the most productive of these schools in 1994. In general, the productivity of WAU scientists increased by eight percent and the number of doctoral degrees rose by ten percent. The hit parade has only limited value, because the publication culture varies a lot: in one department six authors publish one article of two pages, while WAU's historians normally produce books of hundreds of pages. Remarkably the productivity of WAU's scientists outside the graduate schools is a little higher than those within the research institutes.

  • WAU ethologist Paul Koene wants to measure the well-being of chickens by learning their language. Koene has already distinguished twenty-seven different sounds in the cackling of chickens. He can already distinguish between whether a hen has no place to lay her eggs or has no opportunity to wallow in dust. By learning their language, he hopes to be able to assess how the chickens feel and how the conditions on chicken farms can be improved.

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