April 1997: Issue 10

Welcome to the fifth edition of Kew Scientist to be made available on the Internet. If you have any comments or suggestions, please email them to Dr Geoff Kite

Features in this issue:

Director's Message: Research Prioritisation

Firstly, I would like to congratulate Professor Charles Stirton on his appointment as Director of Middleton Botanic Garden, the new National Botanic Garden of Wales. We are really sorry to lose our Director of Science and Horticulture, the post which he has held at Kew since 1992, but are proud to have one of our staff appointed to such a key position of leadership. I would like to thank Professor Stirton personally for the leadership and the co-ordination he has given to our science programmes, in particular his organisation of the Scientific Visiting Group earlier this year. We wish him success in his new challenge.

His post at Kew will not be replaced immediately because we have a hiring freeze in effect as part of a prioritisation exercise, which has become necessary in order to maintain a balanced budget over the next few years. Our financial projections indicated that unless some reduction of expense was made our expenditure would exceed income to an unacceptable level and so senior management have carried out a review of our programme activity. Necessary actions will affect all programmes to some extent, but we have been careful to make as few cuts as possible in our primary programme areas of collections and research, and have suggested some enhancements, through transfer of individuals, to the conservation programmes. Science will be most affected by the fact that some senior staff, who retire over the next few years, will be replaced at more junior grades and a few selected posts will not be replaced.

In spite of some reductions many exciting new initiatives are progressing well. The restoration of the Melon Yard, which contains Kew's greenhouse support for scientific research, is now 70 per cent complete and will be finished by the end of this financial year. We are in the final stages of negotiation to sign our contract with the Millennium Commission to fund our Millennium Seed Bank. In addition the Foundation and Friends have now raised over 5.3 million towards this important new development. During this year we are also beginning the restoration of Museum No. 1 which will be our Centre for Education and a museum function on the ground floor. Although some reductions in programmes are necessary in the prioritisation exercise, I think that we can look forward to a bright future for the science programmes of Kew.

Contact Prof. Sir Ghillean T. Prance, Director

Email: Ghillean Prance

Editorial: Conferences

Communication is vital for research progress, and conferences and workshops play a key role in defining and shaping its direction. Although the number, quality and impact of written scientific publications are important products and measures of science output, much of what is ultimately written derives from the personal contacts and open discussions that are the hallmarks of good conferences. Scientific meetings spawn ideas, facilitate networking and initiate collaborations.

Kew has a special opportunity and responsibility to encourage and lead communication by supporting, organising and hosting international conferences and workshops. This is strongly recognised in our Corporate Strategic Plan. It is Kew's policy to send selected staff and students from all science departments to appropriate scientific meetings, and to expect them to contribute actively by normally presenting oral or poster papers, or attending workshops.

In recent years Kew has fielded strong delegations to a wide variety of meetings including the XIVth Congress of the Association for the Taxonomic Study of the Flora of Tropical Africa (Wageningen, 1994), the International Botanic Gardens Conservation Congress (Perth, Australia, 1995), the annual meetings of the American Institute for Biological Sciences (e.g. Seattle, 1996) and, of course, the annual Conferences of the Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity (including this November's third conference in Buenos Aires).

It is also Kew's policy to organise and host one international conference in most years focused on a topic of strategic importance, with special emphasis on plant systematics or conservation, and to prepare the proceedings for publication, normally within 12 months. However, it is planned not to host such a conference at Kew in the same year as an International Botanical Congress (e.g. the 16th IBC, St Louis, USA, 1999), but to concentrate on supporting the IBC instead.

Since 1990, Kew has hosted and published conferences on labiates (1991), legumes (1992), monocotyledons (1993), composites (1994), chromosomes (1994), pteridophytes (1995) and the flora of Malesiana (1995). The latest, hosted in September 1996, on plant reproduction was rated as highly successful by those attending.

Kew's conference facilities, close to Kew Gardens Underground station, are used for a wide variety of functions throughout the year. The facilities, including a recently modernised lecture theatre (seating 220), with the Gardens as a backdrop, provide an ideal location for plant based meetings. They are available for hire and details can be obtained from Mala Tu (0181-332 5617).

Prof. Michael D. Bennett

Engler Medal

Peter Boyce was this year's recipient of the prestigious Engler Medal, awarded by the International Association for Plant Taxonomy to the author(s) of the single most outstanding work published in botanical systematics. Peter's award, made in August, was in recognition of the quality of his monograph of the genus Arum, published by Kew in 1993.

Kew Scientist

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB.

Tel: 0181 332 5000 Fax: 0181 332 5310

Editor: Prof Mike Bennett

Production Editor: Dr Geoff Kite

Editorial Advisory Team:

Herbarium: Dr P. Cribb, D. Field, Dr N. Hind, P. Boyce, N. McGough, Dr A. Paton

Jodrell Laboratory: Prof M. Bennett, Dr P. Rudall, Dr A. Cox, Dr G. Kite, Dr R. Probert

Living Collections: M. Maunder, Dr M. Fay, A. Jackson, M. Sinnott, J. Lonsdale

Internet Editor: Tony Cox (Jodrell Laboratory)

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