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Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping the Inactive Become Active

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See Through Carbon Competition – a US$500,000 Announcement

See Through Carbon Competition See Through News press release AI cloud computing ML Big Data

Launching our new project, See Through News announces a unique competition awarding half a million dollars’ worth of cloud computing to aid sustainability in the Global South

The See Through Carbon Competition – pilot project for a sustainable Global South

In December 2022, See Through News received an extraordinary unsolicited donation, the details of which can be found in this article.

Unable to make use of the donation ourselves before it expires, See Through News has decided, in collaboration with the donor and the Global Sustainable Futures Progress Through Partnership Network, to use this precious resource for the inaugural See Through Carbon Competition.

This article explains our current plans in detail. Here’s the Executive Summary:

  • US$500,000-worth of supercomputer-grade cloud computing, curated by See Through Carbon
  • Applications open Jan 1 2023
  • Computing resources must be used by April 10 2023
  • Applicants must be based in the Global South, currently have no access to cloud-computing resources, or work on research with potential to promote carbon reduction and sustainable models for the Global South

What is See Through Carbon?

The See Through Carbon Competition marks the launch of a major open source project, See Through Carbon.

Like all See Through News projects, from our network of community Facebook Groups to our cutting-edge AI project and community filmmaking project, this Competition also works as a standalone project.

Details of the full See Through Carbon project will be announced shortly.

In the meantime, we’re launching this Competition first, because of the time-limited nature of the extraordinary donation that prompted it.

We hope this Competition will garner broader attention for See Through News, its Goal and Methodology, as well as making a significant, measurable, repeatable and scalable contribution to our goal of carbon drawdown.

This pilot project is directed towards research projects that will rapidly promote sustainability in the Global South.

Who should apply?

Outside of governments, spy agencies and Silicon Valley Overlords, there are four broad categories of entities that use the level of cloud computing that forms the donation which this Competition disburses.

  1. large, data-intensive corporations
  2. data-intensive start-ups
  3. senior academic researchers
  4. PhD students

For this pilot, See Through News has decided to rule out Category 1 on the basis that they should be able to fund their own number-crunching, and Category 3 for practical reasons – the bureaucratic restrictions on accepting gifts, though understandable, are likely to present an insuperable obstacle given the tight timeline for using this compute.

We’re not ruling out outstanding applications from Category 2, but for pragmatic reasons, and because this donation has the potential to have the most impact, we’ll favour Category 4, PhD students whose research is related to the See Through News Goal of Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping the Inactive Become Active.

Moreover, we’ll favour PhD students in the Global South.

Why the Global South?

Initially, the Competition will be open only to applicants based in the Global South i.e. the poorer regions of the world (if you’re unfamiliar with this term, here’s a good analysis of its usage and meaning from the London School of Economics).

We’re looking for researchers who would otherwise lack cloud-computing resources to inform their projects, and for whom the opportunity to apply this degree of number-crunching muscle power might be transformative to their research, rather than convenient queue-jumping for those with access to Global North university supercomputers.

The competition will be judged by a panel of experts from the See Through News Brains Trust, each with appropriate expertise in the range of topics addressed by the application.

Should our expert panel judge the ad hoc nature of this pilot Competition has left insufficient time to find suitable applicants who can use this cloud-compute resource before the April deadline, we’ll open the competition to Global North candidates too, so long as their research has potential to benefit the Global South.

Why the prize of cloud-computing?

The competition is a means to pass on an extraordinary donation received by See Through News in December 2022.

The donor, which wants to remain anonymous until the first successful applicant is announced, offered See Through News a free licence to the value of US$500,000 for supercomputer-grade cloud computing, expiring April 10 2023.

If successful, this pilot will inspire what we hope will be an annual competition.

A tale of two networks

Two years ago, when a locked-down world was working out new ways of communicating, two networks were formed on similar lines. Both were:

  • based on the ‘free’ connectivity provided by social media
  • not just non-profit, but zero-budget
  • dedicated to getting our species to live within our resources as quickly as possible

One, See Through News, was aimed at what it called the ‘Unwilling Inactivists‘, ordinary people who accept the science and reality of climate change but who feel powerless to do anything about it.

After two years of groundwork, See Through News’s network is now taking off, growing as a double-digit monthly rate.

The other, the Global Sustainable Futures Progress Through Partnership Network,(GSF) has a more specific membership – ‘early-career researchers in the Global South’ – i.e. PhD students in poor countries with no access to supercomputer-grade data processing.

This network is also rocketing, with 2,500 co-ordinators in 145 countries, with an estimated potential reach of a million researchers.

Though geographically separated by only 60 miles, these two networks grew unaware of each other, until a member of the GSF, who’d signed up to the See Through News newsletter after reading our deep-dive article on plankton-counting, alerted GSF founder Dr. Renuka Thakore to See Through News founder Robert Stern.

This Competition is the result of these two networks coming together, in collaboration with the vision and generosity of our donor.

See Through News Overview

  • See Through News is a social media network founded in March 2021 with the Goal of Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping the Inactive Become Active.
  • Its core objective is to measurably reduce as much carbon as possible, as quickly as possible.
  • It is currently driven entirely by volunteers, has zero budget and no bank account.
  • Any donations to STN must therefore be in-kind goods and services.
  • It uses these non-cash donations to further its Goal. 
  • If See Through News can’t use all or part of any donations directly for its own Projects, it passes them on, in their entirety or, if appropriate, in increments, to third parties who can use them in the service of its Goal.
  • See Through News distributes such third-party donations via its See Through Carbon Competition.

See Through Carbon Competition Outline

The See Through Carbon Competition:

  1. is as simple, transparent and fair as possible within limited resources
  2. recruits a volunteer Panel of independent jurors with expertise in a range of areas appropriate to the particular donation they’re distributing, and the applicants vying for its prize
  3. is advertised and conducted via the See Through News network, on this website & other social media channels
  4. will publish and update criteria, conditions & deadlines on the See Through News network
  5. will publish all applications on the this website, in the interests of transparency 
  6. favours applicants whose projects reflect or advance the See Through News Goal of Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping the Inactive Become Active
  7. favours applications which share See Through News’s core values of radical transparency, and open source/free-to-use/non-proprietary outputs
  8. favours applications from the Global South, or somewhere with limited access to the resources on offer.
  9. decides by majority vote of its expert panel on the allocation of the donations, publishing its decisions and rationale on this website
  10. will publish any legal agreements and contracts on this website.
  11. will not, nor will it expect successful applicants to, assert ownership over any IP or revenue produced using the donations.

See Through Carbon Competition FAQs

What’s in it for the donor?

On Dec 15 2022, a donor gifted US$500,000 worth of cloud computing to STN because the company completely agrees with the STN ethos and goal of reducing carbon emissions.’ 

What’s in it for See Through News?

Furthering our Goal of Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping the Inactive Become Active, without requiring any money.

You don’t take money?

We can’t. See Through News has no bank account and is driven entirely by volunteers. We’ve got another FAQ all about that. We can only accept donations in kind.

What if you can’t use them?

Then we give them to others who can use them to further our Goal.

What are the tax implications for you, the donor and the recipients?

We don’t seek to avoid tax – we have an entire Project devoted to detoxifying the notion that tax-paying is bad or stupid, but this is an outright gift in kind, also accounted for by the donor. For the Competition, STN plays the role of distributing agent or curator, leaving any contractual arrangements to be conducted directly between donor and recipient.

Why do you favour applications from the ‘Global South’?

Passing on $500K-worth of supercomputing to PhD students at elite Western universities would only make a marginal ‘difference’. They all have some access to their uni supercomputers and would have built such processing into their research budgets. 

So your ‘free’ number-crunching gift would only be accelerating the same result by a few weeks/months while they waited in line? 

Exactly. Global South (or less well-resourced for other reasons) PhD students might have projects that meet our Goal just as well, but without any access to cloud computing. Their research could be transformatively enhanced by this donation, by offering free resources that would otherwise have been unaffordable.

How do you know such research exists?

We don’t, and neither does anyone else. That’s why this Competition could be so impactful. In case not, we can always open it up to Global North research projects that could benefit our Goals in relation to the Global South.

How easy will it be for a Global South PhD researcher to suddenly upgrade their data or calculations to make use of supercomputer-level number-crunching?

Excellent question. No one knows the answer, but we’re about to find out. Much depends on how widely we can spread the word. It’s likely that many Global South PhD theses are constrained by the level of computation available to them, but we hope some could quickly be adapted to exploit cloud computing horsepower.


For example, a researcher might have selected a tiny, but what they hope is representative, part of a massive dataset to analyse, simply because they had no option. Winning this Competition could mean they could quickly and simply widen the search to the entire dataset. Likewise, they may have limited the complexity of the computation due to resources, but could quickly add many more parameters that could radically improve their research.

What are the biggest challenges?

Finding the right applicant(s) on such a tight deadline. There will be suitable projects out there, we just need to let them know about this Competition in time for them to benefit from it.

How many prizes are there?

We don’t know until we see the applications. If we receive an outstanding application on the first day, the Panel could allocate the entire $500,000 to a single recipient. Or if there turn out to be many deserving candidates requiring smaller amounts of compute, they could allocate 20 different prizes of various amounts.

Why such a tight deadline?

It’s the nature of the donation. The licence may be free to See Through News, but it has been budgeted and paid for in the donor’s corporate accounts, and must be ‘spent’ by the end of a ‘sprint’ period that ends in April, hence all compute tasks using this donation must be completed by April 10th 2023.

When is the application deadline?

There isn’t one, apart from the April one. But when the $500K is allocated, that’s it, so applicants need to get their Application Forms completed as soon after Jan 1st 2023 as possible.

Doesn’t this risk missing out on good applicants who hear about this opportunity too late?

Yes, but for this Pilot we have to balance fairness with pragmatism. All partners hope the See Through Carbon Competition will turn into a regular annual event, based on what this Pilot teaches us.

Does the Competition award anything apart from cloud computing facilities?


Why is the donor anonymous?

The article about the donation quotes the donor, saying it would rather not be named at this stage ’because the company does not want to have any credit for something that does not make a difference. Should the right research be found and run, we will be very happy to be named. 

Why are they so insistent on anonymity? 

Not all that insistent, they just don’t want to be seen to claim credit for anything until there’s something concrete to announce. If you’re really curious, the article also includes a huge clue about the identity of the donor by referencing another See Through News article AI, Climate Change and Monkeys Climbing Trees.

See Through Carbon Competition Pilot Timetable 

This is our current rough draft timeline for the Competition:

December ‘22

  1. Project Design: publish draft rules etc. for public feedback (i.e. you’re reading this now)
  2. Legal/Accounting due diligence
  3. Application form : draft form – see below – to go live Jan 1 2023
  4. Recruit Volunteer Expert Panel of Adjudicators names to be published on STN website
  5. Recruit Volunteer experts to monitor, filter, troubleshoot & shortlist applications

Jan ‘23

  1. Open Global South applications, publish T&Cs etc and Application Form on STN website Sun Jan 1st 2023
  2. Advertise Global South via Institute of Global Sustainable Futures Progress through Partnerships Network and other channels.
  3. Circulate Initial Global South Shortlist to Panel
  4. Panel reviews Global South Shortlist, decides whether to keep Competition Pilot to Global South applications only, or to extend to Global North to ensure sufficient applications that meet the cloud compute standard in time.

Feb ‘23

  1. First Panel Meeting votes to a) approve successful projects, b) allocate estimated compute amount, c) specify deadline beyond which applicants risk forfeiting awarded time if they can’t deliver to spec.
  2. Publish First Panel Decisions on STN website & social media platforms
  3. Start approved compute tasks
  4. Compile 2nd Panel Meeting application shortlist, if required.

Mar ‘23

  1. Second Panel Meeting, if required, vote on shortlist as per First Panel meeting, completing allocation of $500,000.
  2. Second Panel Decisions published on STN website & var. social media platforms
  3. Start approved Second Panel compute tasks
  4. Complete remaining First Round compute tasks

April ‘23

  1. Complete all remaining compute tasks, allowing for forfeits and runners-up taking their place if feasible by hard deadline Saturday April 10th 2023.
  2. Publish interim See Through Carbon Competition report on this website 
  3. Publish applicants’ results of their use of the donation, and See Through Carbon Competition feedback on this website, asap
  4. Review and consider next/repeat See Through Carbon Competition Project

Expert Panel Jurors

We’re now drawing on the See Through News Brains Trust to compile a list of Jurors with the right expertise in a broad enough area of disciplines.

If you’d like to volunteer as an expert juror, or would like to nominate a volunteer (with their consent), please contact us at

Legal/Compliance/Tax Issues

Tax collectors regard ‘Gifts’, ‘Gifts-in-kind’, ‘donations’ etc. with suspicion, for good reason.

Most of those reasons are logically obviated when applied to a company with no bank account or revenue. Still, rules must be applied anyway, and there’s a non-zero risk the taxman might seek money from See Through News even if it’s merely passing on a gift to others.

So for the Pilot competition, See Through New’s role is solely curatorial – functionally an ‘agent’, not a ‘broker’. i.e., instead of the donor formally assigning a ‘free licence’ to See Through News to ‘sub-contract’ to 3rd parties, any contract will be signed directly between the donor and the successful applicants.

In the interests of full transparency, we’ll publish these contracts on this website.

T&Cs & Criteria

Advice for Successful Applicants

To ensure your Application is valid and to give it the best chance of success, please carefully read the entire Project Description, FAQs, Terms & Conditions and Criteria. 

We also strongly recommend you read tour Goal FAQ, and familiarise yourself with other Projects on the See Through News website. 

Our process will follow Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) guidelines.

Criteria for Successful Applicants

Your application must convince the Panel:

  1. Your project will, directly or indirectly, contribute to measurably reducing carbon or making the climate Inactive, Active, in the Global South.
  2. Requires cloud-level computing between now and April 15 2023
  3. Has no alternative option to secure cloud computing between now and April 15 2023
  4. Your project is, or will be, completely ready for a cloud compute task by March 1 2023

The Panel will favour applicants who conform to STN’s open source ethos, i.e. for which the output of their project will be transparent and freely available for anyone to use.

How to apply

Here’s the Application Form.

Before applying, please carefully read this article, and others on this website, to make sure you understand the criteria by which we’ll be adjudicating your application. This will give your project the best chance of success.

Because we’re favouring projects from the Global South that have no experience of, or access to, supercomputer-level computing, we’re not expecting you to find this Application Form easy to complete. We’re expecting a lot of questions, which we welcome, precisely because we want this resource to be allocated to people who’ve never considered using this level of number-crunching capacity.

Because this is an experiment, and no one know how many appropriate projects we might find, or how long it will take, there are many good questions to which we don’t know the answers.

This is why this Pilot has no hard deadline, or even a fixed number of recipients – it all depends on what kind of applications we receive, when we receive them, and how soon they can be ready to let loose on the data servers.

We may get one fantastic project on Jan 2nd 2023, to which we award the entire US$500K kitty, or it may take until March for us to find a dozen suitable projects, whose total cloud computing demands only add us to US$50K. We have no way of knowing what to expect, which is why this is a Pilot.

One thing we know for certain is that it will be advantageous to APPLY EARLY!

Your feedback please!

Please let us know if you have any comments, thoughts, suggestions or amendments to this article.

We’re making up the rules on the fly, to meet the hard April deadline to complete the computes, but hope you can help us make this Pilot as transparent, fair and impactful as circumstances permit.

Please email your feedback to :