News: News Archives
AAAS Program for Women Scientists
Provides Research Opportunities Abroad
Elizabeth Simmons, an associate professor of physics at Boston University, is working to trace the origins of mass, researching theories to explain what created the mass of electrons, quarks, and other particles. While she had met fellow particle physicists, Masako Bando and Taichi Kugo, on previous visits to Japan, and had read some of their work, she had never had the opportunity to sit down and compare notes until she received a grant from AAAS's Women in International Science Collaboration program.
The WISC program is the result of a partnership between AAAS and the National Science Foundation, aiming to increase the participation of U.S. women in international science research. Launched in 2001, the program awards travel grants to U.S. scientists to plan and design new research projects with colleagues in Central/Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Central Asia, Near East, Middle East, the Pacific, Africa, the Americas, and Asia.
"We are interested in building more than just one-to-one research collaborations," says Alan Bornbusch, the WISC program manager for Africa, Near East, Middle East, and South Asia. "We receive an amazing diversity of proposals and a high level of interest in the program. Our job is to then review the projects' scientific merit and assess its broader impact."
WISC Program Expands
Simmons is one of 44 researchers to receive a WISC grant in the second round of awards given this year. The program initially focused on Central and Eastern Europe, but received funding to expand to most other regions of the world. The projects range from researching the theories of elementary particles in Japan to studying developmental disabilities in young adults in Jamaica. While Simmons has already completed her travel, most recipients are scheduled to start their research abroad in 2003.
"In general, the most successful applicants have already set up some form of contact with their foreign partner," Bornbusch adds. "Ultimately, there is no substitute for the travel. The WISC program positions the applicant and the partner so that they can later submit full research proposals."
Simmons spent a week at Japan's Kyoto University discussing theory of the origins of mass with Bando, a female physicist at the nearby Aichi University and Kyoto University, and Kugo, a physicist at Kyoto University. She also had the opportunity to meet with other people in the field.
"For me it was a really nice opportunity. I knew about the work of Bando and Kugo, and had met them some years ago, but we had never spoken enough to collaborate," Simmons says. "Once we were in the same room, it allowed us to discuss our research and gain a much better understanding of the implications of one another's work."
Simmons noted that she also had the chance to meet with other people in the field and talk to a number of female physicists at Kyoto University, sharing their experiences of being a woman in the field. She noted that as an associate professor, going up for promotion soon, developing international collaborations is very important, and the visit came at an opportune time. Simmons is already scheduled to return to Japan in December to meet with her international research partners and write a proposal for future collaboration.
Suteera Nagavajara, WISC program manager for the Asia and Pacific regions, notes that it is a very competitive process but a successful program that helps both the U.S. scientists and their international partners advance and enrich their careers. Some proposals may not get funding the first time around, she says, but the program encourages promising applicants to reapply.
The WISC program will conduct two more rounds of grantmaking in 2003; complete program guidelines and application forms are available at the following URL: www.aaas.org/international/wiscnew.shtml.
The program plans the launch of a website called WISCNet, designed to give WISC awardees a way of communicating with each other, and a place to obtain science news and information on funding opportunities.
"The idea is to use WISC to begin building a community of women scientists interested in or pursuing international research," says Bornbusch. "WISCNet is a step in that direction."
Applications for the next round of the WISC competition are due January 15, 2003.
15 November 2002