Wednesday, 28 May 2008

FARA and the Scientists Without BordersSM Web site

Google's power is unprecedented, but even its strength fails when faced with certain tasks. For example, a person seeking organizations that work on neglected tropical diseases in Africa might type "Africa neglected tropical diseases organization" into the Google search box. If so, 127,000 results would pop up. Sorting through these items is daunting enough—but what if the searcher desires more specific information? Say this individual is looking for blood samples from schistosomiasis patients or wants to help an African university that aspires to bolster its curriculum on neglected tropical diseases. Perhaps he or she wishes to study oesophagostomiasis in Ghana and wonders how labs there cope with the frequent power outages that plague the country.

The new Scientists Without BordersSM Web site ( might help. Launched on May 12, its cornerstone is a free database that collects key information about individuals, projects, and organizations that work—or would like to work—in the developing world. This resource will allow the scientific community to mobilize and coordinate its activities, thus harnessing its potential to promote global health, agricultural progress, environmental well-being, energy development, and so on. The online tool will fuel communication, link individuals with institutions and projects that would welcome their expertise, allow people to register their wants and assets, and provide a mechanism by which organizations can build on one another's progress. With a few clicks, users can start matching needs with resources and find out who is doing what where.

Already, 141 organizations, 82 projects, and 421 individuals from all over the globe have completed profiles. The initiative has raised more than $1 million—and a wide range of world-class organizations have joined as programmatic partners. The New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS), which is spearheading Scientists Without Borders, envisions it as a community venture and actively seeks feedback about how the site can best serve its members.

The potential power of the database is tremendous, but depends on the extent to which it is populated and used. To raise awareness about the initiative, Scientists Without Borders have been promoting the type of "viral marketing" that other Web sites have harnessed to create different types of social and professional networks. For example, organizational partners are expanding the database's universe by educating their constituents and contacts about the initiative. At press time, organizational partners included the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, the Earth Institute, the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, the Pasteur Institute, Duke University Health System, the African Centre for Technology Studies, the Sabin Vaccine Institute, Health Sciences Online, SciDevNet, the University of Ghana, INDEPTH Network, Seeding Labs, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, the Science Initiative Group, the Information Training and Outreach Centre for Africa, the International Foundation for Science, the Nigeria Higher Education Foundation, the American Society for Cell Biology, the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations, and Sustainable Sciences Institute.

23/05 Guest blog: Harnessing science to foster sustainable improvements in the developing world

Scientists Without BordersSM Web site will be presented during the e-learning International Congress:
Thu. 29/05: Demonstrations

Oluremi A. Omowaiye, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Nigeria
Science Without Borders - the New Single Reference Science Community Portal for Africa-Europe