Wetenschap - 14 maart 2002

English summary

The article in last week's Wisp'r about the polar bears in the local zoo received attention in the local newspaper De Gelderlander. The short article in the Wispr reported the observations of two biology students on the stereotypical behaviour displayed by three of the five polar bears in the zoo. An article in the weekend addition of De Gelderlander suggested that Ouwehand had only the interests of the bears at heart and that the Wispr article was untrue. However, according to both the students' supervisor Dr Paul Koene of the Ethology Group and Ouwehand Zoo biologist Jos? Kok, it is a fact that the polar bears spend considerable amounts of time pacing up and down. The accommodation for the bears has now been improved, and it is important to remember that the bears are also there for conservation and educational purposes.

Chairman of the board of Wageningen UR, Professor Aalt Dijkhuizen, moved into his new office on the third floor of the University Administration Centre at the beginning of March, and made time for a conversation with Wb.

Dijkhuizen left the university in 1998 for the private sector, with a reputation for being good at providing cool economic analyses of efficiency. Upon his return he noticed that much has changed in those few years. However, he feels it is time to leave the focus on the internal reorganisation behind and focus on consolidation and directing attention to outside the walls of Wageningen UR. He also manages to shed a positive light on the once more decreasing student application figures for next year. If you include international applicants and those coming from other higher education institutions the total is 1100 applications, as high as it has ever been.

Aalt Dijkhuizen would do well to read the essay on page 9 of this Wb by Gert Jan Hofstede of the Information Technology Group.

Hofstede sets out in both Dutch and English why Wageningen UR should clarify its policy on the use of English as the main language for all operations. He points out the pitfalls of the current proposal, in particular the loopholes created by allowing Dutch students to sit exams in Dutch if they prefer, rather than in English. He challenges Dijkhuizen to make English the lingua franca of the Wageningen UR: 'Wageningen will become an international university indeed, one that lives up to its mission.'

Research on how to improve early warning systems that predict impending drought and therefore food shortages was the subject of Denis Rugege's PhD thesis.

The use of meterological information from satellite images is important for predicting how food crops will fare in a particular season. According to Rugege there is room for improvement. At present the images from the American NOAA satellite are used, but this flies over Zimbabwe every day around noon, which is the most cloudy time of the day, resulting in poor quality images. Rugege sees more potential in the geostationary satellites that are situated about the equator and take pictures every half hour.

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