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How Scientists Without Borders Works


Scientists Without Borders History
A Congolese man is treated for cholera in a Doctors Without Borders tent clinic at the Kibati refugee camp just outside the town of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008.
A Congolese man is treated for cholera in a Doctors Without Borders tent clinic at the Kibati refugee camp just outside the town of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008.
Uriel Sinai/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Bringing modern technology to the developing world is hardly a new idea. As long as cultures have flooded in from other regions, for better or worse, they've brought their ideas with them. Yet much of this influx wasn't aimed at promoting sustainability or even improving the local quality of life, especially when it was driven by colonialism and the thirst for natural resources. As opposed to this top-down model of bringing science to struggling areas, Scientists Without Borders (SWB) applies a bottom-up method, working to build a scientifically empowered, sustainable world.

The seeds of SWB date back to 1817 and the founding of the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS). Like other scientific academies, the NYAS attracted the involvement of the scientific elite, but it also welcomed those merely interested in the sciences. As the name implies, it was initially an institution of and for New York City, but it soon grew into a global society, attracting such noted members as U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, Englishman Charles Darwin and France's Louis Pasteur.

Today, the NYAS boasts more than 24,000 members in 140 countries [source: NYAS]. It maintains numerous academic and corporate alliances, as well as global partnerships with such noted organizations as the Nobel Foundation and the United Nations. The NYAS wages a three-fold campaign: to advance scientific knowledge around the world, help resolve major science-based global challenges and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals.

The NYAS involves itself in a number of activities to pursue these ends, and on May 12, 2008, it wielded its partnerships and a $300,000 seed grant from the Merrick Foundation to form "Scientists Without Borders." The primary focus of the endeavor is to facilitate a better networking of scientific minds, resources and needs between the developing and developed world -- a virtual community aimed at illuminating the more shadowy corners of the globe with science.

The SWB interactive Web site and database allow scientists and scientific institutions working in the agricultural, environmental and health-related fields to share knowledge and resources. This facilitates not only connections between different continents and countries -- such as Africa and Europe, but also between different parts of a continent or country. That's the beauty of establishing an interactive sharing network: Participants can make their own connections instead of having to depend on some larger organization dictating everything.


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