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[afro-nets] Media query from Nature re 'Scientists without borders"
- From: "Declan Butler" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Sun, 25 May 2008 20:13:29 +0200
Dear all Afro-Nets subscribers
The editors and journalists at the journal Nature (www.nature.com) will be writing an Editorial tomorrow, Monday, about a new site, 'Scientists without borders." This was launched this month by the New York Academy of Sciences, and hopes to help brokering scientific/humanitarian resources both among developing countries -- in particular Africa -- and between North-South. The site intends to become a sort of LinkedIn, for professional networking to help scientists and those involved in development find out who is doing what where, and also match needs with resources.
Link to the site: http://scientistswithoutborders.nyas.org/About.aspx
I appreciate, it's late on the weekend, and also a bank-holiday in the US and UK. But if you have a moment, I'd be interested in your assessment of the site and the initiative. I'll keep my questions very brief :
What do you see as the site's strong points/weak points, and what is your critical take on the opportunities it offers, and the difficulties it will face in becoming a useful service?
What do you think is the demand for this sort of knowledge network among people working in health research for development in developing countries?
How useful/not useful would you find this site, and why? What would you like to see it also offering?
What are your main social-networking, and other, needs in science & health for development, and what are the tools/sites you currently use that you find most useful to you?
Please feel free to add any other thoughts you have, as well as your general impressions of the initiative, and the 'Scientists without Borders' site..
Any quick input, no matter how brief, much appreciated; please email me directly with any responses to email@example.com - note deadline is tomorrow. Your input will help to shape our thinking.
PS Also see some brief background below from the people behind the site - this dates from last year, but the site only went live this month.
Senior reporter, Nature
Tel: 33 (0) 247357215
Scientists Without Borders
Letter from the President
By Ellis Rubinstein
reprinted from the January/February 2007 issue
An unprecedented global partnership has taken life. On November 14, $1 million was raised to launch Scientists Without BordersSM, an initiative staffed by your Academy and cosponsored by many of the world's leading institutions. Our confirmed partners include the UN Millennium Project, the German National Research Funding Agency, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Japanese Science Council, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, the Pasteur Institute and a number of the world's most important companies. Conversations are proceeding positively with a score more, and special thanks is owed to the Merck Foundation, which has provided a three-year, $300,000 seed grant to get things rolling. The objective is truly visionary: to create a broad array of synergistic linkages among the many bold but heretofore unconnected efforts to generate science-driven, sustainable development in the poorest of the poor communities-and to realize this vision with sparse resources. How the New York Academy of Sciences became the leader in this initiative-and how it will accomplish these goals-is an interesting story. As early as the year 2001, the organizers of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, began to hold sessions devoted to corporate global responsibility. As a member of the WEF, I was often invited to moderate panels in Davos, and it was during that meeting that I heard the CEO of one of the leading pharmaceutical companies say to the CEO of another: "If I'd only known you figured out how to get around that Minister. We wasted six months trying to satisfy their paperwork!" These companies were beginning to slash prices of desperately needed drugs for distribution in developing nations enduring extreme poverty, and yet they were running into bureaucratic impediments before they even got to the enormous distribution hurdles. And because no regular forum existed for their key people to talk to one another, opportunities for leverage were lost.
The need for integration
Not long after that incident, I learned a second lesson: well-meaning companies were delivering anti-retrovirals to populations that were killing themselves by taking their pills with contaminated water. In many cases, the immune systems of the people taking these supposedly life-saving drugs were catastrophically weakened by treatable diseases like malaria or by simple starvation. Why spend the enormous effort and money to ameliorate a single problem when "co-factors" would ultimately guarantee a bad result? It took the work of the economist (and Academy Governor) Jeffrey Sachs for me to understand that sustainable development could be achieved through integrated interventions. In 2004, the UN Millennium Project, whose vision Sachs has directed since its inception in 2002, defined in incredible detail a plan to reverse the eight most devastating scourges (three in health others in education, gender equality, agriculture, and the environment) through integrated approaches. But how could one encourage integration when so many actors in developing countries were "one-trick ponies"-splendid, generous, capacity-building organizations with only a single area ofexpertise and service?
Lesson number three was delivered in July 2005, on a trip to Africa with Jeff Sachs and his team. I observed firsthand the limitations that would be faced by the UN Millennium Project and every other organization working in the developing world unless a way could be found to train massive numbers of specialists in health, agriculture, connectivity, education, and so on. We visited many African colleges. I could see that they were there and ready to go. The student base was there. But where were the experts capable of training the trainers?
A portal between worlds
Enter Scientists Without BordersSM. Its initial strategy will be disarmingly simple:
1. Create the world's first Web-based information source that can link everyone operating in developing countries to one another so that people-and institutions-have a chance to learn from one another.
2. Encourage NGOs, through this Web portal, to seek partners with complementary skill sets in order to develop integrated approaches to villages, districts, and ultimately entire countries.
3. Develop a Web-based matching service that connects developing country universities, prepared to step up their training of local specialists, with developed nation universities, willing to provide faculty on loan to train the trainers.
Working from her home base in California, the Academy's newest addition, Dr. Evelyn Strauss, will develop the portal and expand our unprecedented network of partner organizations. We are lucky to have her: Evi is a PhD biologist-turned-journalist with a passion for fostering unique communications and collaborations. Her stories have appeared in top-flight magazines-such as Science and Scientific American-and she produces the Lasker Award write-ups every year. She has crafted other enterprises from scratch: She co-created Science's Web site on the science of aging (SAGE KE) and ran its news operation. In the next few months, Evi will be quietly building a user-friendly interface so that visitors can search initiatives by topic, search geographical areas for all agencies working there, and list African universities and contacts in the area. The portal she develops will not be the portal of the New York Academy of Sciences. It will be a co-branded portal of all partner institutions. And this brings me back to where I began. The New York Academy of Sciences is proud of the growing number of allies in this invaluable venture (learn more about this initiative and our partners to date). Please contact Evi or me to join the ranks. We welcome new partners and new ideas for how to link the growing community of the caring.
Senior reporter, Nature