The Opening of Science SuperCourse (SSC) Day at the BA
Dr. Ismail Serageldin, Director of the Library of Alexandria; Professor Vinton Cerf, Google’s Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist; and Professor Ronald LaPorte, Professor of Epidemiology, Pittsburg University, announced the launch of the Science Supercourse Project on Monday, 5 January 2009 at the BA Conference Center Great Hall.
Dr. Serageldin explained that the Supercourse Project intends to build a knowledge network in four main scientific domains namely: Medicine, Engineering, Environment and Agriculture. This is to be achieved through a collection of 100,000 golden PowerPoint lectures from scientists worldwide and making them accessible via the Internet. It is thus an idea to empower science teachers all over the world. He noted that the Third Global Revolution, that is, the Information Revolution, offers new opportunities for the South, but only if the South can master science education, and hence the Science Supercourse is significant. He also talked about the importance of “dreaming to change the world”.
Professor LaPorte said that the Supercourse dream dates back to 6 years ago, when he visited the BA before its official opening and made up his mind that it is the venue where the Supercourse Project should take place. He then went on to clarify the nature of the Supercourse and why it is important now. He said that PowerPoint is a very powerful tool for sharing knowledge and is currently the language of science. He compared the Supercourse Project to a library where one can share PowerPoint slides instead of books. By sharing lectures for free, we can improve science education in developing countries.
The Opening Session was followed by a Plenary one, in which Vinton Cerf gave a presentation entitled “The Future of Information and Communication Technology”. He discussed different challenges to ICT, including its still limited access; until mid 2008, only 20% of the world population had access to the Internet. Another challenge would be the legal framework , i.e. intellectual property, digital signatures and privacy among others. The “Father of the Internet” also talked about digital libraries; prospective acquisition (of data) and retrospective digitization (of books for example). Cerf also spoke about his pioneer work with NASA on designing new protocols for interplanetary internet and the challenges they are facing towards realizing this endeavor. The session was concluded by a round of questions and answers.
It is worth mentioning that the Science Supercourse Day deals with 4 tracks: Engineering, Health, Agriculture and Environment. Roundtable discussions with eminent scientists and specialists will take place, followed by conclusions and recommendations. Gil Omenn, Professor of Medicine, Genetics and Public Health, University of Michigan, will also be giving a lecture on Tuesday, 6 January 2009 entitled “Medicine and Public Health: The New Biology”.