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January/February 2006

Sigma Xi International Newsletter
Volume 5, Number 1/2
January/February 2006

This electronic bulletin is designed to keep subscribers updated on developments in Sigma Xi’s international activities and to provide links and articles on topics of interest to researchers around the world. To submit an item to the newsletter, contact the Manager of the International Program at international@sigmaxi.org. You can also download and print a PDF version of this issue. To subscribe to this newsletter, please use this online form.

Past Issues

In This Issue

Adaptive Technology for Developing Countries Part 2: Internet Access
In the previous issue of the International Newsletter,
Part 1 of this article discussed Adaptive Technology for developing countries with respect to personal computers. This companion piece will present a general idea of some of the options currently available for Internet access.

Some of the more popular methods of Internet access involve wired connections: telephone modem (dial-up), coaxial cable (cable television), Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN). As mentioned in the April 2004 issue, broadband over power lines (BPL) is another type of Internet access involving wires. Commonly, in rural or remote areas, there are no fiber optic cables, telephone lines or even power lines, in which case these methods of Internet access are not feasible options. If the telecommunications infrastructure for wired Internet access is in place, its use is often prohibitively expensive in developing countries. Therefore, as already demonstrated by the use of mobile telephones surpassing the use of “land-lines” in many countries, wireless technology can be an important way to bring communication to previously unconnected areas.

Factors to consider with respect to wireless technology include not only cost and availability of the technology, but also whether or not it requires licensing, the effective range of the signal, the data transfer rate and the complexity of installing and maintaining the equipment. The range is affected by whether or not the technology requires “line-of-sight” between the base station and the receiver (i.e. whether the signal can pass through or circumvent obstacles). Communications using unlicensed parts of the electromagnetic spectrum—frequency bands for industrial, scientific and medical or ISM applications—typically are less expensive (generally free) but can only transmit within a low power range, and experience more signal interference.

One of the most promising wireless technologies is called Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX). It currently offers a range of up to 15 km for non-line-of-sight and 50 km for line-of-sight situations. WiMAX can have a bandwidth of up to 75MB/s and is currently being implemented in dedicated WiMAX as well as hybrid systems of Internet access.

Wireless fidelity (WiFi), a mature technology in widespread use, has a shorter transmission range. One solution to overcome the short range is to form ad hoc or mesh networks, with each user becoming a node that can send and receive data. These mesh networks then have the advantages of being scalable, inexpensive, user-friendly and not requiring licensing in many countries.

The third generation mobile phone system, or 3G, can provide access to both voice and broadband data. Several different types of 3G are available. The most popular types of 3G, CDMA-2000 and W-CDMA (both based on Code Division Multiple Access or CDMA) are not necessarily optimal networks for dedicated data access. Additional types of 3G that may be better for Internet access include Time Division Synchronous CDMA (TD-SCMA) and Enhanced Data rates for GSM/Global Evolution (EDGE).

Satellite data transmission requires either a fixed or a tracking antenna to receive the data, depending on how high the satellite is orbiting above the earth. The most popular terminal for satellite Internet access is the very small aperture terminal, or VSAT. While satellite systems have the best transmission range, they also tend to be the most expensive and complex.

Fixed wireless systems have suffered from lack of standardized equipment and variations in spectrum allocations among countries—what does not require licensing in one country may require licensing in another. Local Multipoint Distribution Service (LMDS) is a fixed, broadband point-to-multipoint wireless service which can provide one-way and two-way high-capacity voice, video and data transmission. It requires licensing and line-of-sight and offers a range of 3–5 km. Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS), also known as “wireless cable” for its initial use in transmitting cable television, is now able to handle two-way transmissions and has a range of about 50 km.

Techniques for more specialized use include free space optics (FSO) and high and low altitude platform stations (HAPS and LAPS, respectively). FSO uses lasers rather than radio waves to transmit data. HAPS and LAPS are usually balloon or aircraft systems hovering above the earth that transmit data via fiber optic cable and radio communication; they can offer the coverage benefits of satellites at a significantly lower cost.

Here are a few examples of interesting projects bringing Internet access to the developing world:

  • Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network (CUWiN)
    open-source, dynamic, mesh, wireless initiative to connect end-users to broadband services; they distribute free software that conducts the automated set-up of networks while building a local intranet
  • DakNet
    store-and-forward wireless network for rural connectivity using Mobile Access Points mounted on and powered by buses, motorcycles, etc. to transmit data between kiosks and a hub
  • Inveneo
    non-profit organization that is using the combination of open-source software, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) and WiFi to connect several remote locations to each other and to the broader Internet and telephone networks; also uses solar- and pedal-generated power
  • Namibia’s SchoolNet
    project using narrow-band radio network to provide Internet access to nearly 900 schools in Namibia
  • StarSight
    solar-powered streetlights that also can act as WiFi access points/nodes in a mesh network
  • Wireless Roadshow
    offers assistance to non-governmental organizations and civil society initiatives in developing countries in the design, planning and deployment of wireless networks
It is clear that no single technology will be suitable for each situation, but that a hybrid of techniques can be customized to meet each region’s need for Internet access. As this newsletter was going to press, a new book, Wireless Networking in the Developing World, was published and made freely available online. [Source: Building Digital Bridges with Emerging Technologies]

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Plans for Global Science Corps Move Ahead
As presented by Phillip Griffiths at
Sigma Xi’s 2003 Forum, “Science & Technology: Keys to International Understanding”, the concept of a global science corps was conceived by Harold Varmus “to allow science missionaries, young and old, to help build a global culture of science by working in those parts of the world that are underserved by science now.” The Global Science Corps (GSC) is currently under development by the Science Initiative Group (SIG) and the United Nations Development Program to place scientists from developed countries at research and teaching sites in the developing world. The long-term objective of the program is to help to build science and technology capacity in the developing world by pursuing agendas designed by host institutions and governments. GSC fellows will also share their expertise beyond the host facilities, lecturing at local institutions, visiting university laboratories and/or local companies and spreading their knowledge through the educational and private sectors. It is envisioned that scientists could participate in the GSC at various career stages—retirement, sabbatical, or even after postdoctoral training—and fellows would typically visit for one year. The GSC will have two complementary mechanisms: (1) to place émigré scientists living in the North (industrialized countries) as GSC fellows in their home countries or other developing countries, and (2) to place scientists living and working in the South (developing countries) as GSC fellows in institutions in other countries in the South to promote South-South scientific collaboration. In order to inform the program design, SIG is conducting surveys of American/Canadian scientists, scientists in the South, and émigré scientists online. [Source: SciDev.Net]

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More Digitization News
Following up on the previous issue’s article on
Book Digitization Projects, it was recently announced that Canadian research libraries have formed a digitization alliance called Alouette Canada to make resources from their collections available online. Thus far, 27 major Canadian academic research libraries have joined the Alouette Canada project, which will be working with the Open Content Alliance. The group will only be digitizing works in the public domain to avoid the copyright controversy that has plagued some of the other large-scale digitization projects. The group is initially planning to scan three to four million titles, with the first digital works to be made available in 2006.

In early January, the National Library of Nigeria also announced its intention to join libraries and other organizations in countries such as China, Croatia, Germany, India, Italy, Namibia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Sudan, the US and Vietnam, which are all using the open-source, multi-lingual Greenstone Digital Library Software. The software is produced by the New Zealand Digital Library project for building and distributing digital library collections. [Source: Open Access News]

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Gender Advisory Board to Conduct Survey
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Gender Advisory Board of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTD) have announced a survey on women in science and technology in Muslim countries. The two organizations are working to identify and gather information about science, engineering and technology transfer organizations and networks for women in North Africa and the Middle East, as well as any other organizations and initiatives for Muslim women in science, engineering and technology. This survey is being conducted on behalf of AAAS with support from the US Department of State. If you can suggest or provide information or would like to participate in this survey on behalf of your department or organization, please contact
Sophia Huyer, Senior Research Advisor, GAB. [Source: SciDev.Net]

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ICSU’s Strategic Plan
Just in time for its 75th anniversary this year, the International Council for Science (ICSU) has issued its first-ever strategic plan, entitled “Strengthening International Science for the Benefit of Society.” The plan was developed over the course of three years and sets forth activities for the 2006–2011 time period relating to goals in international research collaboration, science for policy and the universality of science. The stated long-term ICSU vision is for “a world where science is used for the benefit of all, excellence in science is valued and scientific knowledge is effectively linked to policy-making. In such a world, universal and equitable access to high quality scientific data and information is a reality and all countries have the scientific capacity to use these and to contribute to generating the new knowledge that is necessary to establish their own development pathways in a sustainable manner.”

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World Science Forum Proceedings Online
The proceedings of the November 2005 World Science Forum in Budapest are now available
online. Nearly 70 countries were represented by more than 300 participants. The conclusions and recommendations are available for most of the sessions, which were Science and Public Policy, Capacity Building and Implementation, The Role of Business, The Perspective from Developing Countries, The Future of the Environment, Educating Future Generations, Science in a Democratic World: The Role of Parliaments, Science for Peace and Knowledge, and Ethics and Responsibility in Science Journalism. The overall recommendations from the meeting addressed:

  • new relationships between and funding models involving academia, government, the business sector and other actors;
  • international exchange of experiences and good practices;
  • bridging the culture gap between science and business;
  • recognizing intrinsic ecological values and
  • interesting children in science at an early age.
The first World Science Forum in Budapest was held in 2003 as a follow-up to the 1999 World Conference on Science, held in the same city.

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India Builds Traditional Knowledge Digital Library
The government of India is currently creating a massive open-access database of traditional knowledge to ensure that traditional remedies are not presented as new discoveries and patented. Although the Indian government has successfully challenged several international patents, it is estimated that more than 5,000 patents worldwide are based on Indian indigenous knowledge. The goal of the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library is to make this information freely accessible online in English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish; up to now Indian indigenous knowledge has been published in print in Sanskrit and regional languages. Work is ongoing, with an expectation of having 30 million pages uploaded by the end of 2006. [Source:
Open Access News]

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New Guidelines for Cross-Border Education
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently announced new voluntary quality-assurance guidelines for cross-border higher education. The stated purposes of these guidelines are to protect students and other stakeholders from low-quality classes and disreputable providers as well as to encourage the development of quality cross-border higher education that meets human, social, economic and cultural needs. This is the first large-scale attempt to create an international quality-assurance network in higher education. The guidelines recommend actions to six groups of stakeholders: governments; higher education institutions/providers, including academic staff; student bodies; quality assurance and accreditation bodies; academic recognition bodies and professional bodies. [Source:
Chronicle of Higher Education]

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Did You Know?
The
James S. McDonnell Foundation’s 21st Century Research Awards are designed to support research projects with a high probability of generating new knowledge and insights. The program awards grants in the areas of: bridging brain, mind, and behavior; studying complex systems; and brain cancer research projects. Projects submitted should be should be at an early, even preliminary stage of development, intending to break new ground or to challenge commonly held assumptions; they should also be sufficiently novel, cross-disciplinary, or heterodox that they would not be strong candidates for federal funding. A maximum of US$450,000 can be awarded over a period of three to six years. Applications must be submitted online no later than 13 March 2006.

Euroscience announces the availability of a limited number of travel grants for young researchers from Central and Eastern Europe to participate in the 2nd Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF2006), scheduled to take place on 15–19 July 2006 in Munich, Germany. You can apply for a grant if you are citizen of a Central/Eastern European country and younger than 35 years of age. The deadline for receipt of applications is 15 March 2006.

Each year, the International Balzan Foundation administers the Balzan Prizes in predetermined areas of the humanities, social sciences, physics, mathematics, natural sciences, and medicine. Winners are required to allocate half of their prize money (one million Swiss francs) to research projects of their choice involving young researchers. In 2006, prizes will be awarded in observational astronomy and astrophysics as well as plant molecular genetics. Nominations must be submitted to the prize committee by 15 March 2006; self-nominations are not permitted.

The Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) supports novel, innovative and interdisciplinary basic research focused on the complex mechanisms of living organisms; topics range from molecular and cellular approaches to systems and cognitive neuroscience. The program emphasizes novel collaborations that bring biologists together with scientists from fields such as physics, mathematics, chemistry, computer science and engineering to focus on problems at the frontier of the life sciences. Starting at the postdoctoral level, research grants are awarded for novel collaborations among teams of scientists working in different countries and in different disciplines. The principal applicant must be located in one of the member countries (Australia, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, the UK and the US), but co-investigators may be from any other country. Two types of grants are available: Young Investigators’ Grants and Program Grants. Young Investigators’ Grants are for teams of scientists who are all within five years of establishing an independent laboratory and within ten years of obtaining their PhDs. Program Grants are for independent scientists at all stages of their careers, although the participation of younger scientists is especially encouraged. Awards are dependent upon team size, and successful teams will receive up to US$450,000 per year for the whole team. The registration deadline for the research grants is 20 March 2006, and the submission deadline is 30 March 2006. [Source: GrantsNet]

The Reuters Digital Vision Program awards approximately fifteen fellowships each year to bring exceptional social entrepreneurs and technology professionals from around the world to the campus of Stanford University for nine months. Successful candidates have innovative ideas and are passionate about implementing a project to empower individuals and communities in the developing world. Applicants of any age with a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of full-time professional experience working with information and communication technologies can develop their own projects or continue work on existing projects. The deadline for the 2006–2007 fellowships is 3 April 2006.

Annually, the Austrian Academy of Sciences administers the Ignaz L. Lieben Award to recognize young scientists who have demonstrated the ability to contribute significantly to the fields of molecular biology, chemistry or physics. The US$18,000 prize is given to young scientists based in Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia or Slovenia. Applications must be submitted by 15 April 2006. [Source: Euroscience]

The European Commission has issued a joint call for proposals for the Descartes Prize for Research as well as the Descartes Prize for Science Communication. The research prize is awarded to transnational research teams that have achieved outstanding scientific or technological results through collaborative research in any field of science. For the research prize, an award of one million euros will be shared among a maximum of five laureate teams. The purpose of the science communication prize is twofold—to stimulate interest and careers in science communication and to improve the quality of science communication with the public. The closing date for both prizes is 4 May 2006.

Each year, The Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation provides grants of up to US$10,580 (a symbolic amount representing the cost of the “Spirit of St. Louis”) to individuals whose work furthers the Lindberghs’ vision of a balance between the advance of technology and the preservation of the natural/human environment. Lindbergh Grants are made in the following categories: agriculture, aviation/aerospace, natural resource conservation, education, exploration, health and waste minimization and management. A Jonathan Lindbergh Brown Grant may be given to a project to support adaptive technology or biomedical research which seeks to redress an imbalance between an individual and his or her human environment. The deadline for grant applications is 8 June 2006. [Source: GrantsNet]

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Upcoming Meetings
BIFI 2006 “From Physics to Biology: The Interface between Experiment and Computation;” Zaragoza, Spain; 8–11 February 2006

13th Ocean Sciences Meeting; Honolulu, Hawaii, USA; 20–24 February 2006

World Telecommunication Development Conference; Doha, Qatar; 7–15 March 2006

International Conference on Nanoscience and Technology (ICONSAT 2006); New Delhi, India; 16–18 March 2006

LATIN’06: Latin American Theoretical Informatics Conference; Valdivia, Chile; 20–24 March 2006

First Mediterranean Congress on Biotechnology; Hammamet, Tunisia; 25–29 March 2006

“Berlin 4”: International Conference on Open Access following the Berlin Declaration; Golm, Germany; 29–31 March 2006

European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2006; Vienna, Austria, 2–7 April 2006

Materials Congress 2006; London, UK; 5–7 April 2006

EuroSys2006; Leuven, Belgium; 18–21 April 2006

10th International Association for Continuing Engineering Education (IACEE) World Conference on Continuing Engineering Education; Vienna, Austria; 19–21 April 2006

Fourth Symposium on Scientific Research Outlook in the Arab World; Alexandria, Egypt; 22–25 April 2006

Third Nordic Conference on Scholarly Communication “Beyond Declarations--the Changing Landscape of Scholarly Communication;” Lund, Sweden; 24–25 April 2006

8th International Conference on Southern Hemisphere Meteorology and Oceanography; Foz do Iguaçu, Paraná, Brazil; 24–28 April 2006

Regional Impact of Information Society Technologies in Africa (IST-Africa) 2006 Conference and Exhibition; Pretoria, South Africa; 3–5 May 2006

Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC) Conference on Climate Change Challenges and Solutions [EICCCC2006]; Ontario, Canada; 9–12 May 2006

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For more information on any of the programs mentioned in this newsletter, please contact:

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society
P. O. Box 13975, 3106 East NC Highway 54
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709 USA
Telephone: +1-919-549-4691
Fax: +1-919-549-0090
E-mail: international@sigmaxi.org

 

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