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Santa Cruz Sentinel

February 21, 2004

Shark research group, former member reach settlement

The Santa Cruz-based Pelagic Shark Research Foundation has reached a settlement with a former member over a 2002 lawsuit stemming from a major research project.

Former foundation member Scott Davis, the target of the suit, wrote a letter of apology to the foundation as part of the settlement.

When the study began, Davis was a foundation member and a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz. Foundation money was used to buy $3,600 satellite tracking tags used in the study, according to the suit and Davis’ letter.

In return, the foundation expected to be acknowledged in a research article in the journal Nature, according to the suit.

"I should have listed my joint affiliation with UCSC and PRSF (Pelagic Shark Research Foundation)," Davis’ letter reads. "I deeply regret not having listed my dual affiliation with UCSC and PSRF on the Satellite Study published in the journal Nature."

The lawsuit was filed after a January 2002 article in the journal Nature did not give the foundation the acknowledgment it expected.

"We pretty much feel vindicated," said Sean Van Sommeran, director of the foundation.

Tim Morgan, Davis’ attorney, said the settlement will help all involved get the matter behind them and concentrate on their research.

"What each side has agreed to do is make nice and not take potshots at each other," Morgan said. "It’s one of these cases where I think there were some miscommunications on both sides."

The article detailed work by researchers Barbara Block of Stanford University and Burney LeBoeuf of UC Santa Cruz, along with four other marine scientists, in using satellite tagging to track the movements of great white sharks in a two- year study at Aņo Nuevo Island and the Farallon Islands.

After the foundation complained about being snubbed, its members requested that journal Nature publish a note acknowledging its role in the study.

Block and LeBoeuf wrote a letter to the journal, that was included in court records, saying there was no agreement to credit the foundation and that Van Sommeran’s crew did little more than drive the boat.

"He made no other contribution to the collection of data, writing or editing the paper," the researchers wrote. "He does not write research papers."

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