Washington — The U.S. Agency for International Development and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have awarded their first cycle of research collaboration grants to build scientific and technical capacity in the developing world, USAID announced May 2.
The competitive grants were awarded through the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) program, funded by USAID and administered by the National Academy of Sciences in coordination with the NSF.
“These research projects take on big questions at the intersections of science and development — from studies of environmental change in Sri Lanka and Peru, to modeling geohazards in Bangladesh and the Caucasus, to dealing with soil conservation and water retention in Ethiopia,” said Alex Dehgan, science and technology adviser to the administrator of USAID, in a USAID news release.
“These problems aren’t unique to developing countries. PEER builds global cooperation around issues that affect developing countries abroad and Americans at home, and levels the playing field for scientists in developing countries by providing funding for their research, their labs and their students.”
USAID contributes more than $4.8 million, which leverages more than $46 million of NSF-funded research.
“We recognize that the best ideas come from shared collaboration where both sides can learn from each other,” Dehgan said.
The National Academy of Sciences convened review panels of topical experts to evaluate nearly 500 applications from 63 developing countries. Among these, 41 projects from 25 countries were selected based on scientific merit, projected development impact within the country and the prospects for strength of collaboration between developing country scientists and their American counterparts.
Project duration ranges from one to three years, with budgets from $27,000 to $300,000 per award.
Here are examples of successful PEER proposals:
• Developing translation software to convert spoken Arabic to Moroccan sign language.
• Studying marine biodiversity in Indonesia and the Philippines.
• Assessing landslide risk in Lebanon.
• Analyzing climate change impacts in Colombia and Ecuador.
• Addressing drinking water quality in Kenya.