Thursday, July 07, 2011

Launch of Joint NSF-USAID Program, PEER

A new joint program between US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) — PEER, "Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research"—was launched today, July 7, at the NSF Headquarters in Arlington, VA. USAID Administrator, Dr. Raj Shah, and Dr. Subra Suresh, Director of the National Science Foundation signed a formal interagency Memorandum of Understanding to put the program into action. Since 2008, the two agencies have supported an informal pilot program which has played a role in enhancing scientific research in Tanzania, Bangladesh, Mali, Kenya and Burkina Faso related to ecosystems, climate change, seismology, hydrology and biodiversity. Success stories from the pilot prompted wider investment in competitive awards via PEER for U.S. institutions and researchers working with international counterparts in the developing world. U.S. scientists will be provided awards via NSF, and USAID funding will support international scientific and technical capacity. Longevity is a key factor in PEER, as it will support collaborations beyond the award tenure.

Dr. John Holdren—who plays multiple roles in the Obama Administration, as Science Advisor to the President, Director of Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and Co-chair of President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), provided the opening remarks. He began by saying that PEER would capitalize on the agency strengths governed by the mandate of USAID as well as the level of excellence and peer-review based merit that NSF is founded on. The partnership promises to ‘build bridges where diplomats cannot’, he said. He continued, saying that, we (the U.S.) ‘eagerly anticipate building upon these bridges’. Dr. Suresh, whose remarks followed Holdren’s, said that this program will not only allow U.S. scientists to more effectively collaborate globally, it will forge new and essential science-diplomacy alliances. He also mentioned that he will attend the G-8 Summit for international research agencies in England next week. In 2012, the United States will assume the Presidency of the G8 Group of Nations. Over the past decade, discussions at the G8 have included a science dimension, tackling issues such as climate change, energy and maternal health. Finally, Dr. Suresh identified the increasing need to have an “ecosystem” for basic research based on scientific merit, principles, and integrity. He also announced that there will be a Summit, hosted by NSF, on Scientific Integrity next year (2012).

Concluding the event was USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah, who highlighted the advances that he anticipates PEER to make in the areas of climate change, energy, environment, and maternal health. Citing the example of rapid rehydration to combat diarrhea, Dr. Shah said that not every scientific endeavor will be a frontier-level discovery, but rather a new application of current knowledge or a simple approach that can be swiftly used. He said that he anticipated further building the program in the future. To see more information about the PEER program, please go here.

Related information:

USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures

US Government Information on Scientific Integrity

The Royal Society Event during the Conference of Scientific Leadership from the G8 Nations

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