ONWARD (Open Network for Water-Related Diseases) is a project funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) of UK and is dedicated to developing a network of scientists and stakeholders sharing a common interest in better understanding of environmental controls on outbreaks of water-related diseases; the role of societal engagement in countering it; and in forecasting, early warning and risk mapping of water-associated diseases through the use of remote sensing, field observations and mathematical modelling. Our vision is to enable cost-effective, regularly updated, geo-referenced early warning for areas vulnerable to water-associated diseases, which in turn will enable preventive measures to be deployed in a timely manner to minimise the probability of epidemics. It is an open network committed to promote better dialogue and collaboration among experts from all relevant disciplines (including, but not limited to, microbiologists, molecular biologists, environmental scientists, remote-sensing scientists, medical practitioners, and social scientists) and with stakeholders, including the general public.

The network plans to:

  • Set up a website that will be used to: draw attention to relevant publications; provide information on sources of relevant data; facilitate collaboration among members, for example, by providing information on funding opportunities;
  • Promote citizen science activities;
  • Organise webinars from experts and stakeholders from around the world;
  • Carry out training activities (online or face-to-face); and
  • Organise meetings that bring together scientific experts and stakeholders.

The project was initiated by Trevor Platt (Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UK) and Milton Kampel (National Institute of Space Research, INPE, Brazil), supported by Shubha Sathyendranath (Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UK). Nandini Menon (India) is also a partner in the project. The Board of Directors of the network other than the three of us are:

  1. Dr. Grinson George, Principal Scientist, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi, India
  2. Dr. Anas Abdulaziz, Principal Scientist, National Institute of Oceanography (Regional Centre, Kochi), India
  3. Dr. Bess B Ward, Faculty and Chair, Department of Geosciences and The High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI) at Princeton University, USA
  4. Dr. Rita Colwell, Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, USA
  5. Dr. Craig Baker Austin, Principal Scientist, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Weymouth, UK
  6. Dr. Nicholas Thomson, Professor, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK