This year RCP worked for the first time with the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education’s new Research and Development Office (RDO) to manage peer review of research proposals. RDO was established in 2017, with the goal of transforming the R&D ecosystem in Saudi Arabia through strategic initiatives to enhance the research capacity in the Kingdom.
In December 2018, RCP received from RDO several hundred proposals seeking funding under the inaugural round of its International Collaboration Grant program (ICG). The goals of ICG are to strengthen Saudi university research capacity and impact through long-term partnerships with international universities and to promote a sustainable culture of collaboration and knowledge exchange in different academic settings and across disciplines.
RCP managed peer review simultaneously for proposals submitted under two ICG tracks: Grand Challenges and Research Capabilities. Of the proposals received, about one fifth sought funding through the Grand Challenges award, which provides up to SAR 7.5 million (~2 million USD) for research projects that have the potential to further Saudi Arabia’s goals of increasing the total available capacity of desalinated water, increasing the reliable transmission and storage of renewable energy, reducing the threat posed by emerging infectious diseases, and developing a real-time simulation and monitoring mechanism for Massive Crowd Movement. The remaining proposals sought funding under the Research Capabilities mechanism, which offers up to SAR 1.8 million (~480,000 USD) in support of basic research aligning with the priority research areas of life sciences and health, petrochemicals, water, energy, environment, and information technology.
Review panels consisting of three experts with complementary expertise were recruited to review each proposal. Reviewers scored each proposal against a rubric, and provided narrative feedback that included big picture recommendations to help RDO in making funding decisions as well as specific recommendations helpful to the applicants.