Chemists Without Borders

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

One TOPAZ for every village: PLoS Blog

A beautiful vision from Richard Cave on PLoS Blog. Thanks to Open Access News.

One Laptop per Child is closer to reality with the Children’s Machine (CM1). One of the key features is that it “creates its own mesh network out of the box. Each machine is a full-time wireless router. Children—as well as their teachers and families—in the remotest regions of the globe will be connected both to one another and to the Internet.” Each laptop will participate in an ad-hoc network with each laptop operating in a peer-to-peer fashion. This opens up a slew of possibilities for the laptops.


Why not have a TOPAZ server running in every village that could be browsed by every CM1 in the nearby network? The TOPAZ repository can contain Open Access articles published on medicine, neglected tropical diseases, etc. This would help build science and health capacity in low-income countries. But the TOPAZ repository isn’t constrained to just Open Access – it can contain any type of object from video presentations to textbooks.

Take a TOPAZ server and add every piece of educational material licensed by Creative Commons. Load the repository up with course material from MIT Open Courseware and Connexions Repository, textbooks, lesson plans, music lessons from Berklee Shares, museum resources, architectural solutions, agricultural information, etc. Setup a peer-to-peer TOPAZ network for information to be sent to remote repositories as soon as it is available. Put this in a village surrounded by CM1s and imagine the possibilities.

There’s talk that the CM1 will revolutionize how we educate the world’s children. The reality is that the CM1 laptops will be used by children and shared by their families. If the information is available, then the CM1 will truly revolutionize education.

4 comments:

  1. Heather - the link you gave to the TOPAZ site doesn't have much info. Are there any examples of it being used anywhere? I know it has been compared to PLoS ONE so I would like to see how it is being used.

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  2. Jean-Claude - I'm afraid that there aren't yet any examples of TOPAZ up and running as yet. It is the platform on which PLoS ONE will be running and so PLoS ONE will be the first demonstration of its potential. As an Open Source publishing platform we hope that many other Open Access publications will adopt it in the future.

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  3. TOPAZ is only one of many open source publishing software platforms. As Peter Suber points out in Open Access News today, Open Journal Systems is the leader in this niche - for example, it is used throughout Africa. This is also the platform I'm most familiar with as an author and editor. A good example of use of the software is African Journals Online. Most of these journals currently only have abstracts openly available online; this is not a decision against open access, but rather a growing curve as these journals move gradually from print to electronic format. AJOL illustrates one of the potentials of open access: researchers in Africa can publish in local journals, and their work can be readily available throughout the world.
    This helps to address your issue about costs, Jean-Claude; authors from the developing world can publish in PLoS and have their fees waived, of course - or they can publish in local journals, and pay fees in local currency reflecting local costs.

    [Disclosure: I work for Simon Fraser University Library, one of the partners in the Open Journal Systems].

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