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Support for International Programs on the Upswing
In a turnaround that bodes well for international cooperation in the sciences, the AAAS Directorate for International Programs is attracting new and substantial funding.
Recent grants to the directorate will support programs that further vaccine development to combat infectious diseases, encourage research links between US women scientists and colleagues abroad, provide career training to scientists who were once employed by the defense industry of the former Soviet Union, and help solve pollution problems that plague fragile ecosystems around the world.
"We're being cautious, but it seems that funders are picking up on the importance of international scientific cooperation," says directorate chief Richard Getzinger.
One of the grants -- more than $560,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) -- will allow AAAS to expand its Women's International Science Collaboration Program. The two-year expansion will take the program, which had targeted only Russia and other Central and Eastern European and Central Asian countries, and move it to a global arena, Getzinger says. Scientists in the United States can apply for travel funds and living expenses to cover the cost of four weeks abroad to set up research projects with researchers in other countries. The application, which for the first round must be delivered to AAAS by 15 January 2002, may also include men, but either the principle investigator or the co-principle investigator must be a woman.
"There is evidence that the quality of scientific research improves with international cooperation," says Marina Ratchford, program manager with the international directorate. "It brings two perspectives to bear on a problem -- it can provide resources and materials that are unique to a given country or region, and it provides opportunities for professional and personal growth."
A second grant, almost $600,000 from the US Department of Commerce, will bring bioweapons scientists from the former Soviet Union to study good manufacturing practices so they can manufacture commercial pharmaceuticals, including vaccines, in their own facilities. The grant will also fund workshops overseas to train Russians in technology commercialization and to apply commercialization principles.
Over the last year, efforts to protect the world's fragile ecosystems have engaged the Directorate's staff and attracted the attention and support of funders, Getzinger says. The NSF, for example, has provided more than $300,000 in grants for pilot projects in the La Plata Basin in South America and the Kola Peninsula in Russia. The purpose is to study the interaction over time between human inhabitants and the natural environment in which they live. The Directorate is now seeking funds for a project that would use remote sensing techniques and satellite data collected over the last 40 years to document the impact of population growth and movement on the Mekong River region in Southeast Asia.
"The purpose of these projects" says Getzinger, "is to find a way to develop integrated scientific understanding that can be used to maintain a healthy ecosystem, while fostering economic growth."
Visit the AAAS International Programs Website for more information.
-- Coimbra Sirica