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[BEIJING] The Chinese Academy of Sciences is planning a large-scale computer project to make it easier for researchers at its 90 institutes to share their data.

Nan Kai of the academy's Computer Network Information Center described the planned 'e-Science' project at a workshop on information technology for geosciences in Beijing last week (21 July).

Over the next four years, data from the academy's institutes will be entered into hundreds of databases, and computing tools will be made available to help researchers analyse the data.

Nan told SciDev.Net that the project's funding has not yet been finalised, but could be up to 500 million yuan (US$62.5 million).

The e-Science project aims to tackle the problem of poor data sharing in the scientific community.

This is a widespread problem in China, partly because suitable technology has been lacking, says Luo Tiejian, a computer scientist at the academy's Graduate University and a chief advisor to the e-Science Initiative.

Luo says that the potential benefits of the e-Science project are tremendous.

If, for example, a geoscientist wanted to construct a picture of the inside of an erupting volcano, she could access the e-Science platform to see data for similar volcanoes. This could help her establish a three-dimensional model of the inside of the volcano in combination with measurements of the volcano's exterior.

Nan says that the e-Science platform will be freely accessible to scientists outside the academy, as well as the public.

Liu Mian, of the US-based University of Missouri, says that besides developing the infrastructure, the government should also stipulate that researchers must share their data by sending them to public databases such as the e-Science project.

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