Wetenschap - 18 april 2002

English summary

Chairman of the Executive Board of Wageningen UR Aalt Dijkhuizen is not in favour of the 'science tax' that the Chairman of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) Ed d'Hondt wants to introduce.

According to d'Hondt a compulsory contribution by the private sector to fundamental scientific research is the only way to achieve the commitment made at the recent European summit in Barcelona that three percent of GDP should go to scientific research. Dijkhuizen responded, "This is not the direction we want to pursue. I am convinced that the private sector is prepared to pay for good research, but it is up to the universities to promote themselves; compulsory measures are not the way to go about it." Dijkhuizen also believes the government should invest more in research.

Wb published a letter from biologist Dr Pieter Vereijken of Plant Research International last week in which he warned that by siding and identifying with Dutch farmers, Wageningen researchers are placing their own future in jeopardy.

This week he elaborated on his views, arguing that instead of focusing on the agro-food sector Wageningen UR should turn its attention to the consumer. Dutch consumers buy an increasing amount of agricultural produce from other countries, where labour is cheaper and the products often tastier. So what, says Vereijken, the Netherlands is screaming out for more room for housing, recreation and nature, as well as for water catchment.

The Wageningen Student Organisation (WSO) has compiled an information folder on RSI (repetitive strain injury), a complaint that many students and other university workers suffer from as a result of long hours of mouse use with the computer.

The folder contains information for RSI sufferers on computers, procedures, money and therapy available. The introduction of the folder is accompanied by an information evening on Tuesday 23 April in De Wereld at 20:00. The student doctor will explain the medical aspects of RSI, the dean about the procedures in Wageningen, and there will be a demonstration of a speech recognition computer programme. So far all information is in Dutch only.

Brushing or feeding cows can calm depressed people, and looking at hens is good for adults and children with autism.

Dr Jan Hassink of Plant Research International made these observations during his research on the therapeutic value of farm animals. While it is difficult to draw hard scientific conclusions, observations confirm that contact with farm animals can help people with psychic disorders or mental handicaps to further their development. Hassink would like to extend his research, but currently there are no funds available. However, Plant Research International will continue to follow patients for a number of years together with the University of Utrecht and the Trimbos Institute, an institute for psychiatry and addiction therapy.

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