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Scientific Panel For Biosphere 2 Dissolves, Citing Personality Conflicts

February 16, 1993

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ A majority of the members of a scientific advisory panel overseeing the Biosphere 2 ecology-under-glass project voted to dissolve the panel, frustrated by lack of progress, its chairman said Monday.

Earlier Monday, a statement issued for Biosphere 2′s top official said the advisory panel was dissolved because of personality conflicts some members had with the management team.

The panel of independent scientists was appointed to advise the managers of the $150 million experiment after a series of problems put its scientific credibility at risk.

Committee chairman Thomas E. Lovejoy, a biologist and official of the Smithsonian Institution, said five other members participating in a Feb. 5 meeting all agreed with his decision to quit.

The other five people on the 11-member panel were not available for the meeting for various reasons, he said.

″I was frustrated by the lack of progress and I was eager to focus on my other activities,″ Lovejoy said in a telephone interview from Mexico City. He declined to comment on the personality-conflict issue.

″I really regret that we weren’t able to make greater progress,″ he said.

On Sunday, the Long Island, N.Y., newspaper Newsday reported that committee members resigned over poor cooperation.

Monday’s Biosphere 2 statement was issued by the public relations firm for Edward P. Bass, chairman of Space Biospheres Ventures.

Bass, a Texas billionaire, bankrolled the private, for-profit study which seeks to replicate the Earth’s environment in a 3.15-acre glass-and-steel domed structure near Oracle, about 35 miles north of Tucson.

Eight crew members are living inside the structure for two years, attempting to raise all their own food while recycling air, water and wastes as a possible space colony prototype. The crew’s stint ends Sept. 26.

Lovejoy had been involved with Biosphere 2 for several years and Bass named him chairman in appointing the advisory group a year ago.

A series of problems and public relations gaffes have beset the project. Among them: unannounced installation of a scrubber to remove some excess carbon dioxide; a crew member’s return with unannounced supplies after a brief exit for hand surgery; and the belated acknowledgment that air was pumped in to replace air that leaked out.

Biosphere officials also recently announced that crop yields inside the dome have been so poor that food may have to brought in for the crew before the experiment is over.

Crew member Mark Nelson said the advisory panel’s dissolution shouldn’t affect the project. Personality conflicts have nothing to do with science, Nelson said, adding that the project has been performing valid scientific projects.

″I think it just means another phase in the pioneering project has commenced,″ he said of the panel’s dissolution.

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