Push the Boat Out

Posted: March 27, 2013

By: Nature

The 1984 film The NeverEnding Story opens with a bullied boy who forgets his troubles when he reads about an alternative world called Fantasia. So it is tempting to ask whether a new private research vessel, named after one of the characters from the film, can offer hard-pressed oceanographers a similar escape.

As we report on page 420, the R/V Falkor has launched into troubled waters for marine science. Ship time is hard to come by, and funds for academic ocean research are shrinking, at least in the United States. More than ever, researchers are needing to cobble together money from several sources to pay for voyages that, in the past, might have been funded through one overarching grant.


Arriving at a rate of knots on this scene are private foundations. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in Palo Alto, California, for instance, has a marine-microbiology initiative that explores sites ranging from coastal upwellings to deep-sea sediments. But it does not accept unsolicited proposals from scientists.

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