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Academic and scientific communities collaborate

Web and audio conferencing services are making it possible for the European Space Agency to connect researchers from across geographically dispersed institutions.

The ESA wanted to offer some of its research partners on the International Space Station a series of real-time interactive lectures on astrobiology, and chose a Web collaboration solution from iLinc Communications for that purpose. The inaugural series of classes originated from the Erasmus Centre at ESA's European Space Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands, and was available to 140 students from five European universities.

The astrobiology series was a success, according to iLinc, and a second academic year recently began, this time connecting students at more than a dozen universities.

Massimo Sabbatini, head of the Erasmus Centre, says, "iLinc has been instrumental in facilitating virtual staff meetings, the unique astrobiology lecture series, student parabolic flight workshops, payload safety, life in space lectures and much more. Additionally, students interested in astrobiology who are not studying at one of the participating universities are also able to learn from the courses since iLinc enables them to be recorded and played back on demand."

The Erasmus Virtual Campus was initiated in 2001to help expand collaboration across ESA's industrial and academic partners. Since then, it has powered many e-learning, Web conferencing, training, lectures and online symposia involving universities, research and government institutions, and space-related companies, iLinc reported recently.

James M. Powers Jr., iLinc president and CEO, says, "The academic and scientific communities in particular have embraced Web conferencing technology because their budgets typically are highly scrutinized. On top of saving time and money, they also appreciate the environmental benefits of reduced travel."

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