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[NEW YORK] Scientific organisations and researchers working in developing countries will be brought together through a network to be launched later this year.

The programme, Scientists Without Borders, is an initiative of the New York Academy of Sciences. It seeks to integrate the efforts of the scientific and health community to address global health, agriculture and energy challenges in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals.

"The 'Without Borders' idea perfectly captures what we — and others in different fields — are trying to do: break down the geographical (and other) borders that can hinder progress, and engender the sense of belonging to a global community," Evelyn Strauss, executive director of Scientists Without Borders, told SciDev.Net.

The first step is to create a website, currently under construction, the cornerstone of which will be a database holding information of programme members. Information on the website will be ordered by fields of research, and contains forums for members to make comments and a news section.

By facilitating contact through the website, the programme aims to align initiatives and researchers with similar aims, give organisations and individuals a method of registering their resource needs, and ensure continuity in projects and prevent overlap.

The Academy has chosen Africa as the starting continent, with Ghana as the pilot country. As much information as possible is being extracted from Ghana to serve as a "proof of principle" for what the database will eventually look like.

So far, more than 70 organisations and 400 individuals globally have committed to participate.

Ellis Rubinstein, president of the New York Academy of Sciences, told SciDev.Net that the initiative had raised over US$1.1 million by November 2006, paying for staff and the costs associated with setting up the database and website. Their goal is to raise US$800,000 per year to cover the maintenance of the network.

While the academy is acting as the administrator and promoter of the network, the network will be under the control of the members.

"We power it and it belongs to all of the institutions partnering with us to help Africa … and ultimately the rest of the developing world," explains Rubinstein.

Scientists Without Borders will be officially launched on 12 May in New York.