GLOBAL: Funding to diversify global e-library

Nature Education, an educational division of the London-based Nature Publishing Group, has recently received funding from global partners to develop its free online science library, Scitable.

The support comes from the Switzerland-based Roche Applied Science, India's Tata Consultancy Services and the US-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and New England Biolabs.

Although the amount of funding has not yet been released by Nature, it is significant says Vikram Savkar, NPG's senior vice president and publishing director. "These organisations recognise that the future of their industries - and the societies within which they operate - depends on raising the breadth and quality with which we train and retain young scientists in every region of the world," he says.

"They are demonstrating clear and material dedication to the cause by underwriting cost-free student access to our high-quality educational content, filling a critical resource gap in many regions."

Scitable, launched in 2009 by NPG, strives to provide high-quality digital science education materials to students from university and research institutions around the world. Each of the sponsors has promised to provide funding for a different section of the online archive.

Roche Applied Science, a producer of reagents and systems of life sciences, has agreed to provide funding for Scitable's 'genes and disease' section (genetics is currently a dominant subject on the library), while Tata Consultancy Services has signed on to sponsor 'evolutionary genetics and population genetics'.

The two other sponsors, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and New England Biolabs, will respectively sponsor a unit on the cutting-edge biotechnology topic RNAi, 'restrictive enzymes' and other related topics.

"Science teachers have been asking for digital science education resources that unite all of the sciences in one space, incorporate a research-based perspective, allow class-by-class customisation, and are accessible to all students," says Savkar. "Today, through the support of our sponsors, we have taken an important step towards making that a full reality."

NPG and Nature Education plans to expand Scitable's content to include life and physical sciences and develop a mobile site that can be accessed by a smartphone.