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New U.K. Grant Program Taps Wisdom of Crowds

Government council seeks new solutions to tackle complex life sciences questions.

The Burrill Report

“The organization is seeking projects with relevance to one or more of its strategic priorities, which include food security, industrial biotechnology and bioenergy, basic bioscience underpinning health, and new ways of working in the biosciences.”

A government-funded U.K. research council is making about $3 million (£2 million) in grant funding available to develop and deploy crowdsourcing approaches to complex, large-scale scientific problems.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, one of seven research councils that work together as Research Councils U.K., is making the funding available to support the establishment of software, organization of crowdsourcing efforts, and the generation of high quality bioscience data and new knowledge.

In particular, the organization is seeking projects with relevance to one or more of its strategic priorities, which include food security, industrial biotechnology and bioenergy, basic bioscience underpinning health, and new ways of working in the biosciences.

In recent years, crowdsourcing has been deployed to tackle complex scientific problems, such as to re-design a protein, perform microscopic analysis of biomedical samples, and even search for molecules that could make cancer treatment candidates, the council said in announcing the funding.

The group highlighted several cases that exemplify such progress, including Foldit, a multiplayer online game that engages non-scientists in solving hard protein-folding prediction problems; a game that enlisted non-experts in an entertaining digital game to help identify malaria in biomedical samples; and the Screensaver Lifesaver, an Oxford University project that utilized donated computing power to model the therapeutic effects of proteins which have been identified as good cancer treatment candidates.

The council said it is seeking projects that tackle large and complex problems that lend themselves to a crowdsourced solution and that would be difficult to solve in other ways. It is also seeking projects with a strong rationale for adopting a crowdsourced approach when considered against other possible methodologies, such as the use of supercomputing.

Statements of intention to submit applications for the funds are due March 5, while full applications are due to the council April 9.


February 21, 2013
http://www.burrillreport.com/article-new_u_k_grant_program_taps_wisdom_of_crowds.html

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