Wetenschap - 22 februari 2001

English Summary

'Openness' is the key word in the way forward for Wageningen UR according to Chairman of the Board Cees Veerman.

The outside world still views Wageningen UR as inward-looking and the reorganisation has been a painful process. In what he called his 'pep talk' the Chairman said it is time to look forward: "In terms of scientific achievements we are doing well in Wageningen, and we have to reflect this in our image." Collaboration between the university and DLO research institutes should not be seen as a straitjacket, but a question of regularly checking what each has to offer the other. "We have 7000 creative and highly educated people working here....You have to dare to be proud. I don't care if you think the Board is a bunch of bullies, as long as the message is clear: it's our organisation, and we're going to make something of it."

Wageningen UR is to install the anti-RSI programme Workpace on all computers.

The programme is intended to help prevent RSI complaints among staff and students. Workpace keeps track of how long someone is working at a computer and how much use is made of the keyboard and mouse. The user can determine how often the message flashes up on the screen to take a 'micropause' - a few seconds to relax the muscles and improve circulation. About once an hour the programme advises taking a 'macropause' of a few minutes, and gives suggestions for exercises and posture. If the user ignores the pauses the programme starts issuing warnings. Wageningen UR has purchased a licence for the programme, which means that staff and students can also install the programme on their computers at home. It is not yet clear whether costs will be attached.

Greenomics, the DNA sequencing centre at Plant Research International has won an order from the lactic acid producer Purac to map the genetic structure of a lactic acid producing organism.

Purac are not saying which organism is involved, but it is the one that is most used by the company to produce lactic acid. More information on the genetic make-up of the organism should help Purac to understand more about the relation between stress and other environmental factors and the manufacture of lactic acid. It is a big contract for Greenomics, although no figures have been made public. A job like this is usually split between a number of laboratories, but Greenomics will be responsible for the whole project.

ID-Lelystad is working on improving the test carried out to determine whether sheep have scrapie or BSE.

So far no sheep on farms have been found with BSE, but tests have shown that they are capable of contracting the disease, and when they do the pathogenic prions are found not only in the marrow of the spinal cord and brain tissue as in cows, but also in lymphatic tissue. The current test available takes eighteen months to come up with results. ID-Lelystad researchers check sheep every couple of months to see if there are any differences between sheep infected with BSE and those with scrapie.

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