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NSF Selects AAAS to Evaluate the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research
AAAS has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct a year-long review of the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research, a scientific, environmental and climate-study organization that counts 19 nations as its members.
Under terms of the grant, the AAAS International Office will work with a high-level international assessment committee to evaluate the functions and operations of the IAI, being mindful of its evolution since 1992 and focusing on its future.
"This evaluation is important to AAAS for three main reasons," said Shere Abbott, AAAS chief international officer and the project's principal investigator. "It builds on our previous experience and work in Latin America in networking science and societies. We're keenly interested in science-based decision-making. And we are also keenly interested in improving global change research and networks that promote sustainable development in the region."
Shirley Malcom, head of Education and Human Resources at AAAS, will serve as co-principle investigator, bringing to the evaluation EHR's expertise in program evaluation, human resources development and capacity-building as well as extensive experience in international settings.
The Inter-American Institute focuses on the Americas and the Caribbean, a region of extraordinary biological diversity and climate variations that is best by growing populations and serious environmental problems.
The Institute emerged from a global environmental initiative undertaken by U.S. President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s. Nearly a dozen nations in the Americas convened in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1992 to approve a treaty that created the Inter-American Institute.
The treaty called for the IAI to conduct research and to fund research grants focused on the environmental and social impact of climate change in the Americas. The Institute was further expected to augment the region's overall scientific capacity, enhance regional relationships, promote the exchange of science data and improve training and education.
Brazil was selected in 1994 to be the IAI's host country, and over the next two years the organization began to fund its first grants and initiate its own research projects.
Today, the IAI annual budget has grown to $3.1 million, said Paul E. Filmer, NSF's program director for geology and international programs. The NSF, on behalf of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, provides $2.8 million of that, with other countries providing the balance, Filmer said.
The NSF awarded the grant on 1 October, and work on the review began shortly after. "AAAS has extensive experience with such program reviews," Malcom explained.
The NSF "felt that AAAS was an independent organization that had the kind of expertise and institutional interest in carrying out this kind of evaluation," Filmer said. The Inter-American Institute has never undergone such a review, he added.
"All of the member countries agreed to this external evaluation of IAI to get a gauge on how to make sure that this particular structure is carrying out the mandates it had been given," he said. "The U.S. government is supporting it on behalf of all the member governments of IAI."
The review will cover both institutional and programmatic development, including such areas as the evolution of the IAI and its science agenda, networking and cooperation among research activities, linkages with regional needs and global programs, building scientific capacities and infrastructure, methods for supporting research and improving productivity, communication of results and mechanisms for linking research to pressing societal needs and decision-making in the region.
It will provide a retrospective assessment of the Institute as well as guidance for the future. The AAAS will deliver an interim report in early 2005; a final draft report with recommendations will be delivered to the IAI Conference of Parties meetings in June 2005. The final published report will be available in fall 2005.
"This evaluation is important to AAAS for three main reasons," said Abbott. "It builds on our previous experience and work in Latin America in networking science and societies. We're keenly interested in science-based decision-making. And we are also keenly interested in improving global change research and networks that promote sustainable development in the region."
The 19 members of IAI are: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, the United States and Venezuela.
Edward W. Lempinen
25 October 2004