Center of Science, Policy and Society Programs: Research Competitiveness Program
The following examples represent the diverse range of assistance RCP has provided to the research, innovation, and development community around the world.
Review of the NSF Science and Technology Centers Program
In partnership with the AAAS Center for Advancing Science & Engineering Capacity, RCP is currently reviewing a large (~$60 M/yr) center-level funding program at the National Science Foundation. Under this grant, we are evaluating the achievements of the Science and Technology Centers program in each of its defined objectives: research, education, diversity, knowledge transfer, and partnerships. The review covers 17 STCs, ranging in technical areas from biophotonics to remote sensing of ice sheets. Starting in September 2009, we have utilized quantitative and qualitative approaches for the study, interacting extensively with stakeholders, conducting primary data collection as well as analyzing extant data to shape our findings and review of the program and provide guidance for its future. The final report was released in December 2010.
Competitive Proposal Review and Core Facilities Survey for the King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology (KACST)
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has embarked on a process to transform its economy from a natural resource, asset-based economy to a knowledge-based economy. This transformation has focused attention on research universities because investments in science and technology are required to achieve this goal. Saudi universities are engaged in a process to achieve international levels of excellence in science and engineering that will provide the foundation for the new economy, and establish them as peers of the outstanding technological universities around the world.
A key component of this transformation is faculty-driven research activities. Since 2008, RCP has managed the peer review of research proposals submitted to KACST. The purpose of the AAAS reviews is to inform and advise KACST and applicants on the internationally-competitive scientific merit of the proposals. To date, over 1000 proposals have been reviewed in fifteen technical areas of strategic importance to Saudi Arabia, including advanced materials, biotechnology, energy, environment, math and physics, information technology, nanotechnology, oil and gas, space and aeronautics, and water.
Given that the global challenges of importance to the future economy require multi-disciplinary approaches to achieve success, KACST is considering a new core facilities support program that will begin to bring diverse university research programs more closely together so that the synergisms of these interactions may be enhanced, while at the same time achieving economies resulting from reduced duplication of research facilities. In 2010, RCP provided external guidance to the Kingdom in the establishment of the core facilities support program. RCP recruited an external panel of experts to travel to Saudi Arabia, tour existing core facilities, and meet with representatives from a subset of universities to gain insight into the expertise, needs, and aspirations of the Kingdom’s university community.
A recent AAAS news release offers more details about AAAS's involvement with KACST.
S&T Capacity Building for the State of Maine
For nearly 15 years, RCP has assisted the state of Maine in numerous efforts connecting science, technology, and innovation. In 1996, we facilitated a process whereby the Maine Science and Technology Foundation and Maine EPSCoR, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, revised the statewide science and technology plan. Building on these relationships, subsequent work has included statewide, inter-institutional, and programmatic strategic guidance for state agencies, the Maine EPSCoR program, and various University consortia. In addition to strategic guidance, we have worked with funding agencies in the state to plan and manage competitive funding opportunities spanning the research, development, and commercialization continuum.
Most recently, we worked with the Maine Technology Institute to design and manage a peer review process for proposals submitted to the Maine Technology Asset Fund in 2008, 2009, and 2010. The Maine legislature and voters authorized and approved the Maine Technology Asset Fund (MTAF) to be funded through a state-wide bond initiative. This competitive award program was designed to support capital infrastructure necessary for research, development, and commercialization projects, with a goal of significant economic impact in Maine. We worked with the Maine Technology Institute to design a review process that was successfully implemented, resulting in nearly $50 million dollars awarded to science and technology groups throughout the state. The Maine Technology Asset Fund recently received one of four Excellence in Technology-Based Economic Development Awards from the State Science and Technology Institute (SSTI), a national nonprofit organization based in Ohio that leads efforts to improve state and regional economies through science, technology, and innovation.
Programmatic Analysis for the European Commission
The American Association for the Advancement of Science, through RCP, assisted the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) and eutema Technology Management GmbH (a strategic technology management group in Austria) in a project to advise the European Commission in the design and selection of Future and Emerging Technologies Flagship (FET-F) programs rooted in information and communication technology (ICT).
Guided by an external advisory panel comprised of leading ICT researchers, administrators, and policy makers, RCP identified and collected information on dozens of previous flagship-like initiatives worldwide. A subsequent analysis was performed on six initiatives that best matched the goals of FET-F and offered potential lessons to be learned. To accomplish this analysis, RCP collected information from numerous sources, including planning documents, funding announcements, evaluation materials, previously published analyses, and initiative websites. Finally, using a defined protocol to guide discussions, twenty interviews were conducted with people intimately familiar with the initiatives to provide a personal context and reality-check for written documentation.
After reviewing background materials and completing interviews, information was synthesized and structured as responses to the criteria used in the interview protocol. While the accompanying analyses were not comprehensive, each initiative was analyzed in sufficient depth to elaborate critical design features, challenges, and success factors. In addition to analyzing each initiative, aspects that appeared to transcend specific initiatives were identified, potentially pointing to “best practices” that may be important for the design and implementation of an array of programs.
Competitive Proposal Review for the Washington State Life Sciences Discovery Fund (LSDF)
In 2005, state tobacco settlement money was used to establish a mechanism to support innovative research in Washington State to promote life sciences competitiveness, enhance economic vitality, and improve health and health care in Washington. LSDF was established to invest $350M over 10 years through multiple competitive proposal competitions. Since its inception, RCP has managed the peer review of proposals submitted to LSDF for competitions focused on single investigator or small team projects; establishment of center-level, collaborative programs; and commercialization activities. RCP has accomplished these tasks by utilizing a wide range of external reviewers with expertise matching the submitted proposals and unique aspects of each competition. In addition, the review process is tailored to each competition, applying a mix of individual peer review, small panel peer review, and interview panels. To date, RCP has assisted LSDF in the award of over $55 million in grant funding.
Assessment of the Research and Innovation Enterprise in South Dakota
In 2008, RCP led a panel that reviewed the state of South Dakota’s research administration and innovation infrastructure. The purpose was to advise a Governor-appointed committee tasked with preparing a business plan for science and technology-based growth in the state. The panel identified the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for research-driven economic development in South Dakota and proposed an organization that would support and coordinate research and technology transfer activities across the state. The panel's report on “Creating a Knowledge Economy in South Dakota” included strategies for strengthening the foundation of South Dakota’s research infrastructure and building the innovation ecosystem.
Judging for the Environmental Protection Agency P3 Competition
Since 2008, RCP in collaboration with the AAAS Center for Science, Technology, and Sustainability, has managed the judging of university teams competing for funds through the EPA P3 (People, Prosperity, and the Planet) competition. RCP recruits a team of appropriate reviewers to assess the technical merits of submitted proposals, as well as the needs of the P3 competition. RCP manages the judging process, which involves reviewers assessing submitted proposals and interviewing teams during the annual National Sustainable Design Expo, which is held on the National Mall during the Earth Day celebration.
Review and Guidance of the Desert Research Institute
In 2001, and again in 2006, the Desert Research Institute (DRI) commissioned RCP to assemble and lead a National Science Advisory Committee (NSAC). Comprised of senior scientists from outside Nevada, the NSAC reviewed preparatory materials and traveled to DRI to meet with stakeholders and provide review and guidance to DRI on its research directions and support structure.