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Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping the Inactive Become Active

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Call Paper for US$500,000 Cloud Computing Competition

see through carbon competition drawdown sustainability

See Through Carbon Competition now open to applications from sustainability researchers who live in, gather data in, or whose work benefits the Global South

Competition Quick Reference

We recommend you read this document in full, together with the references to which it links, for guidance before submitting your Application.

Carbon Drawdown & Sustainability Research with Global South Impact

Call type: Invitation for Applications 

Closing date: First come/first served, last application by April 1 2023

Competition Key Information

Resource AvailableUS$500,000 of supercomputer-grade cloud compute
Type of ResourceGift
Resource ProviderSee Through News
Assessment ProcessShortlisted Applicants awarded share of resource on rolling basis
DeadlineCompute must be completed by April 10 2023
Application PeriodJan 1 2023 until gift is exhausted or expires

Competition Overview

  • The See Through Carbon Competition is a pilot competition offering half a million dollars worth of advanced computing technology to the world’s poorest countries.  
  • Applications are open to any research project that advances the Goal of its organiser, See Through News: ‘Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping the Inactive Become Active’. 
  • Seeking research that produces actionable short-term outcomes that either measurably reduce real-world carbon emissions, or behavioural studies that induce people into adopting or advocating, zero-carbon change.

Competition Assessment Process

  1. Applicants apply using Application Form
  2. Applications shortlisted on a rolling basis
  3. Shortlisted Applications reviewed by Expert Panel, consisting of Technical, Subject & Political Experts (see below)
  4. Panel may request supplementary information if clarification is required
  5. Panel will award appropriate increment of US$500,000 value of prize fund until fund is exhausted/expires

Competition Contacts:

  • Organiser:  Robert Stern See Through News,

Competition Resources

Applications are now open here. Before applying, the organisers recommend applicants carefully read the following:

Competition Expert Panel

The Competition’s Expert Panel is made up volunteer experts in the following categories:

  1. Technical Experts, who assess an Application’s computing requirements
  2. Subject Experts, with specialist knowledge in a range of fields to assess feasibility
  3. Political Experts, who assess how the applications might serve the See Through New Goal and how quickly the research results might start measurably reducing real world carbon 
  • At least one Expert from each category will assess each shortlisted Application.
  • The Expert Panel will provide feedback to all shortlisted Applicants, successful or not.
  • If information provided in the Application is insufficient for the Expert Panel to make a judgement, the Panel Chair will contact the Applicant with the Panel’s supplementary questions seeking the required clarification.
  • In the interests of transparency and for the benefit of current and future Applicants, a summary of all shortlisted applications, together with the Expert Panel’s feedback and questions, will be published on the See Through News website.
  • Details of our team of volunteer Expert Panellists on the See Through News website

Competition Organiser

  • See Through News is a zero-budget social media network launched in March 2021, founded by former international network news journalist (ABC News, CNBC, CNN), independent documentary filmmaker and broadcast consultant Robert Stern 
  • See Through News is driven by volunteers and communicates via a variety of platforms 
  • The See Through News network’s global reach is approaching 50,000 and growing at a double-digit rate per month

Competition Resource

On Dec 15 2022, See Through News received the unexpected, unsolicited, unusual donation of a free licence to the value of US$500,000 worth of supercomputer-grade cloud computing. The anonymous donor operates at the cutting edge of high-performance computing, and set the following conditions on how its gift was to be used: 

  • It must serve the See Through News Goal
  • It must be used before April 10th 2023

See Through News was not yet able to use such advanced number-crunching power itself, so it teamed up with another UK-based but global zero-budget network founded during lockdown in 2021, which kindly agreed to serve as shortlister for this Competition.

Competition Shortlister

  • Global Sustainable Futures Network (GSFN) was founded by engineer and carbon auditing expert Dr. Renuka Thakore 
  • GSFN brings together early-career researchers working on sustainability-related projects, particularly in the Global South (preferred term for the world’s poorest countries)
  • GSFN’s network reaches around a million researchers in 145 predominantly Global South countries.

Competition Donor

  • The donor is a cloud computing management specialist. They own no data centres themselves, so the prize is not idle capacity being dressed up as a donation for PR purposes, but a budgeted free licence which has already been accounted for in their business plan. It is an outright gift in kind
  • Not wanting unearned credit, the donor wants to remain anonymous until the first shortlisted Applicant is announced. The donor’s CEO has been consulted throughout, and is one of the Technical Experts assessing the applications

Competition Organiser, Shortlister & Donor Comments

See Through News Founder and Expert Panel Chair Robert Stern:

‘We considered who, apart from governments and commercial operations whose business models accelerate rather than slow down carbon drawdown, might most benefit from this extraordinary gift, and make it most transformative. 

The April deadline, and our standing start, means we have to narrow our focus. We reckon environmentally-focused PhD students or hacker groups might be most likely to be able to use this extraordinary donation to best effect. The Global South doesn’t usually have access to this level of tech, so we thought it would be worth giving it a head start, for once. 

The gift’s timing means we’re assembling the bicycle as we ride it and have to be pragmatic, but we want to favour Global South applicants or projects likely to promote sustainability in the poorest parts of the world. 

We ask Applicants to  forgive any imperfections in the Competition’s structure. Expediency and the pressing deadline attached to the donation means we may have to sacrifice the Perfect for the Possible.  

If this Pilot succeeds, we’ll use the lessons learned to create a more robust and predictable structure, giving Applicants more notice and greater clarity. In the meantime, this remains a remarkable opportunity to do real good quickly. ”

Dr. Renuka Thakore, Founder of the shortlister Global Sustainable Futures Network, and Subject Expert (Construction/Engineering/Methodology):

‘Having to complete the compute by April 10th was already a tough challenge. We’ve made it even harder by targeting researchers who have no experience of, or even little concept of, the power of Big Data, Machine Learning and Cloud Computing. 

We still think it’s worth trying, even for this Pilot project. If we can find the project, or projects, it could make things possible that would otherwise have been impossible or inconceivable. It’s a bold experiment, and we welcome any and all applicants.”

Donor CEO (identity to made public following publication of first shortlist):

‘We made this donation knowing that though See Through News is developing a number of AI and data-intensive projects, it’s not currently in a position to use this gift itself. 

We’d seen enough of See Through News, and Robert’s integrity and drive, to know we could trust it to find a creative, original, practical and effective way to make best use of this computational gift. They’ve not disappointed, assembling a deeply impressive team of volunteer experts in no time. 

The See Through Carbon Competition is a brilliantly inclusive and imaginative – though very challenging – use of this gift. 

We’re following developments with great interest, and would love to make this Competition permanent, and with a bigger prize fund, based on the lessons of this Pilot. 

We can’t wait to see the results. Please apply and spread the word!’.