Dr Sibusiso Sibisi, President and CEO of South Africa's CSIR, is the only person from the African continent selected to serve on the Advisory Board of the project. Other Advisory Board members are from some of the world's most prestigious scientific, research and charitable organisations, including the Mayo Clinic, Oxford University, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations Development Programme. The CSIR is the largest public research, development and innovation institution in Africa.
"The World Community Grid is looking for proposals from research organisations interested in harnessing the immense power of Internet-connected computers to accelerate humanitarian research," says Sibisi. "The goal is to support innovative efforts that will benefit most from this technology and promise to deliver significant results on the most pressing issues facing the global community."
"There are strong linkages between science and hitech initiatives on the one hand, and improved quality of life on the other. Too often, however, this link seems tenuous in the minds of those who stand to benefit from such initiatives, as well as those who develop and use the technologies," comments Sibisi. "Projects such as the World Community Grid are excellent examples of hitech endeavours that can solidify these linkages."
"The inclusion of people from the developing world in this initiative further strengthens the ability of the World Community Grid to respond swiftly, and in an appropriate manner, to significant challenges that hold the promise of significant benefit to society. It is important that such global interactions should be true partnerships to remove the North-South divides and barriers between the haves and the have-nots," Sibisi explains.
There are more than 650 million PCs in use around the world - each of these is a potential participant in the World Community Grid. Grid computing is a rapidly emerging technology that can bring together the collective power of billions of individual PCs to create a giant "virtual" system with massive computational strength. Grid technology provides processing power far in excess of the world's largest supercomputers.
The World Community Grid Advisory Board will scrutinise projects submitted by research, public and not-for-profit organisations that want to do humanitarian research using grid computing technology. The Board is expected to implement five to six projects a year.
Following the conclusion of an approved research project, the research institution will have to make results freely available to other research organisations within six months. The research institution will also have to provide results in layperson¿s terms for the World Community Grid community of volunteers and other people interested.
Proposed research projects must promote human welfare by advancing knowledge in areas that contribute to the overall goal. It is anticipated that projects in the following disciplines will be submitted:
- New and existing infectious disease research: Research on cures for HIV/Aids, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), malaria, and others.
- Genomic and disease research: Studies to identify the functions of the proteins that are coded by human genes and how these might relate to cures for common diseases.
- Natural disasters and hunger: Earthquake predictions, information on improving crop yields and livestock production, and evaluation of the supply of critical natural resources such as water.
- Environmental research: Meteorology and severe weather prediction, pollution remediation, climate modelling, and others.
Priority will be given to research with the potential to assist economically disadvantaged communities and those in developing countries, and to initial research that can open new fields of inquiry.
Details on the World Community Grid project are available on www.worldcommunitygrid.org