The Civilian Research & Development Foundation

bridges vol. 25, April 2010 / Institutions & Organizations


flattened_logo_squares1.jpgThere is nearly universal agreement that science is perhaps the best global, common language, able to bridge most of the deepest political, theological, and cultural divides while providing solutions to challenges that observe no geographical borders. Moreover, it is science and technology (S&T) that drive the successful economies of the 21st century. International S&T collaborations are effective ways for nations to cultivate strong relationships. From these relationships - known as science diplomacy - flow the real value of scientific exchanges, the area in which the CRDF operates.  

Established as the US Civilian Research & Development Foundation, CRDF is an Arlington, VA-based nonprofit organization that promotes international scientific and technical collaboration through grants, technical resources, and training. Historically, CRDF focused on post-Soviet Russia and the newly independent states in Eurasia. But as the demand for the economic, innovative, and academic drivers of S&T expanded, so too did CRDF's focus. Now in its fifteenth year, CRDF has offices in Moscow, Russia; Kiev, Ukraine; Baku, Azerbaijan; and Amman, Jordan.

CRDF's work provides a critical entry point for nations - through international S&T cooperation - to harness their economic potentials, solve societal challenges, promote security, and generally improve the human condition. As part of its mission, CRDF promotes positive change by introducing international best practices and proven institutional models in science, higher education, and technology commercialization. In addition, CRDF enables universities, companies, and nonprofits to conduct research and development projects around the world, through its services component.

{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick – all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest} In the course of its work, CRDF is assisted by a large network of American scientists and engineers who understand the value of scientific collaboration as a means to increase understanding, productivity, and innovation, as well as the advancement of their own research objectives. More than 7,500 of the nation's scientists have participated in the project evaluation process, proposal review, site visits, and post-project evaluations. CRDF believes that they want the very best science to rise to the top. But rigorously reviewed projects that are selected for support also have a better chance of producing quality results that can attract consistent future support for the scientists involved.


Science Education and Infrastructure


Nations build a strong base for continuing economic development by generating and utilizing scientific and technological advances. Yet developing and transitioning countries often lack the capacity to develop and implement effective research programs. CRDF meets that challenge by building sustainable scientific institutions and programs that enhance the capabilities crucial to increased research and development of productivity.

CRDF has successfully established or strengthened the capacity of over 50 institutions and centers - patterned after successful international analogs - in numerous countries with varying levels of scientific expertise. By establishing indigenous institutions to allocate scarce R&D resources through a transparent process of open competitions, employing the principles of merit review, CRDF has brought about institutional change and built capacity for long-term development. To sustain these centers, CRDF has trained hundreds of scientists in basic entrepreneurship, intellectual property protection, and identification of financing. Even more than the establishment of these centers, the establishment of peer review is having an impact on the way science policy is formed, exercised, and regarded.

In 2008, CRDF worked to strengthen university research and education in science and engineering in places like Iraq, through initiatives such as a web-based project to reintegrate the nation's scientific and higher education communities into the global community of science. The same year, CRDF also expanded its higher education program to include a new research and education center in Ukraine that will address energy efficiency research, a key economic priority for Ukraine.

Building on the growing connection between academia and innovation, CRDF's programs and services also address the urgent issues of global entrepreneurship and technology commercialization. Through its innovation-focused activities, CRDF unites scientists and business people to help build strong local science/business partnerships, while establishing links with US companies, associations, and technical experts. CRDF has hosted workshops and training seminars for hundreds of scientists in Eurasia to impart valuable lessons on such topics as proposal writing, business plans, and intellectual property concerns.


Supporting Research


At the core of CRDF's activities are its research support programs. Launched as its first initiative in 1995, the programs provide up to two years of support for joint US and Eurasian research teams in all areas of basic and applied research in the natural sciences. Such collaborations strengthen the quality of foreign research, provide opportunities for junior researchers and female scientists, support the redirection of former weapons scientists to civilian research, and establish a background of knowledge and technology on which successful and profitable industry and business partnerships can be built.

Through CRDF and collaborations with American scientists, foreign scientists are introduced to the merit-based review process and gain familiarity with Western research models and interdisciplinary research. American scientists benefit from the unique expertise of their Eurasian counterparts and CRDF's project support.


CRDF in the Middle East

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Virtual Science Library in Iraq.

In the Middle East and North Africa, interest in science and technology partnerships is growing. Governments in this region are realizing the importance of investment in science and technology education, research and development, and technology transfer for the future of their economies and are taking steps toward that end. CRDF has supported the establishment of programs that facilitate and build collaborative relationships between the region's scientists and engineers and their US counterparts.  One program addressed the development of improved screening methods for genetic diseases in newborns. Through a workshop and a related funding competition, CRDF helped Middle Eastern researchers in this field begin to develop regional networks and form international teams with US and other scientists around the world to identify and address research opportunities. The outcome will be truly transformative - helping babies stay healthy as well as creating lasting connections between scientists.   

Most recently, CRDF has worked with scientists and universities in Iraq as part of the efforts to aid in the nation's rebuilding. CRDF serves as the secretariat of the Iraq Virtual Science Library (IVSL), a partnership among several US government agencies, companies, and non-government organizations to provide Iraqi scientists and students with free, full-text access to more than a million peer-reviewed articles and a large collection of education materials. The IVSL, designed to service as many as 80 percent of the nation's university population, now has more than 5,450 Iraqi users. Prior to the IVSL, Iraqi scientists published around 100 research articles each year in international journals. They now publish more than 300 articles annually.

A public-private partnership with the US Department of State and the Iraqi Engineering Enhancement Program (IEEP) is helping to increase the professional and technical capacity in Iraq, while promoting infrastructure and workforce development. The program provides Iraqi engineers with opportunities to increase their professional and technical skills through fellowships at American host companies and universities. After completing the fellowship, participants return to Iraq with knowledge of how to teach current industry practices and to serve as liaisons between Iraqi and US governmental ministries, educational institutions, and engineering firms. Since 2008, US academic institutions and private organizations have hosted 14 fellows.


Promoting Peace and Security

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Scientists are able to conduct international research with the support of CRDF.

CRDF continues to be a key partner in implementing government and private programs to reduce the threats of proliferation. Our programs give priority to former weapons researchers and engage them in productive civilian research and development. In Kyrgyzstan, public health scientists - including those who once worked in the bioweapons field - are increasingly using mapping tools like Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to track infectious diseases such as anthrax and use the resulting data to develop ways to control outbreaks. They are obtaining much-needed help to use this technology through a consortium that CRDF helped to establish with support from the US Department of State. Not only will raising the level of GIS expertise in Kyrgyzstan help address infectious disease outbreaks, it will also stimulate research, education, and business cooperation using these technologies.


Summary


The work of CRDF during the last decade has contributed enormous value to US science and foreign policy objectives, and to international public/private sector partnerships. Its capability and accomplishments have created a matrix of success, and opportunities to apply that experience to future challenges where S&T cooperation can make critical differences in development of a nation or region.  

Taken individually, the above efforts are simply part of CRDF's overall mission. However, their real strength lies in the momentum created by their collective impact. CRDF recognizes that science is a great tool for addressing global challenges, particularly for the United States, due to the relationships created through collaboration.

Such relationships and, in particular, strong ties on S&T matters, encourage deepened relationships in other areas. Scientific collaborations lead to integrated markets as more goods are exchanged, technologies standardized, and trading partners established. As the US fosters the scientific potential of other nations, those nations are prone to develop the infrastructure and capabilities necessary to nurture innovation and, ultimately, to remove themselves from the rolls of the needy.

More information about CRDF can be found on its web site:  www.crdf.org

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