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Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping the Inactive Become Active

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See Through Carbon Competition Launch Press Release, Jan 1 2023

See Through Carbon Competition carbon drawdown tech cloud computing AI ML

Applications Now Open For First US$500,000 Supercomputing Competition for Global South Sustainability Research

Jan 1 2023

A unique competition offering half a million dollars worth of advanced computing technology to the world’s poorest countries today started accepting applications from around the world. 

The See Through Carbon Competition is open to any research project that advances the 10-word Goal of its organiser, See Through News: ‘Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping the Inactive Become Active’.

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, including a hierarchy of Facebook groups, a weekly newsletter, a podcast, YouTube channel etc..

Competition Prize

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

Competition Partner

STN 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, Global Sustainable Futures Network.

GSFN was founded by Dr. Renuka Thakore to bring together early-career researchers working on sustainability-related projects around the world, with particular focus on the Global South (the 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, not wanting unearned credit, 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 Award Process

  1. Applicants apply using Application Form
  2. Applications shortlisted on a rolling basis
  3. Shortlisted Applications reviewed by Expert Panel including at least one Technical, Subject and Political Expert. They may may request supplementary information if clarification is required
  4. Panel will award appropriate increment of US$500,000 value of prize fund until fund is exhausted or expires

Competition Expert Panel

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

  • Technical Experts, who assess an Application’s computing requirements
  • Subject Experts, with specialist knowledge in a range of fields to assess feasibility
  • Political Experts, who assess how the applications might serve the STN 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.

All shortlisted Applicants, successful or not, will receive feedback from the Expert Panel.

If the information provided in the Application is insufficient for them to make a judgement, the Expert Panel Chair will contact the Applicant with the Panel’s supplementary questions seeking the clarification they require.

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 this website.

We will shortly be publishing details of our team of volunteer Expert Panellists on this website.

Competition Quotes

Chair of the Expert Panel and See Through News founder 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.”

Subject Expert Panellist (Construction/Engineering/Methodology) and shortlisting partner Dr. Thakore of Global Sustainable Futures Network:

‘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.”

Technical Expert Panellist and Donor CEO (anonymous pending first shortlisted Applicant):

‘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!’.

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

Competition Contact