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NSF-funded Research Collaborations with SubSaharan Africa. Presented at a Workshop on “Enhancing Research and Education Network Connectivity to and within Africa” May 5, 2005 Elizabeth E. Lyons, Ph.D. NSF’s Office of International Science and Engineering [email protected] NSF Basics.

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NSF-funded Research Collaborations with SubSaharan Africa

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NSF-funded Research Collaborations with SubSaharan Africa

Presented at a Workshop on “Enhancing Research and Education Network Connectivity to and within Africa”

May 5, 2005

Elizabeth E. Lyons, Ph.D.

NSF’s Office of International Science and Engineering

[email protected]


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NSF Basics

  • Independent federal agency

  • $5.4B budget in FY05

  • Organized by discipline

  • Uses peer review to make awards

  • Includes Social Science and Engineering

  • Integration of Research and Education is a hallmark


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NSF’s International Activities

International activities are a key part of NSF’s mission.

“Discovery is a global enterprise. For the U.S. to remain in the forefront of world science and technology, it needs scientists and engineers from all disciplines who can operate and lead international teams and track international discoveries in some of the most challenging research areas.”

  • NSF Director Arden Bement, 2004


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International Research and Education

  • International research and education proposals are funded both by NSF’s Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) and by the Research Directorates

  • Approximately 20% of all NSF awards involve international collaboration


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Office of International Scienceand Engineering (OISE)

  • Promote research excellence through international collaboration

  • Forge partnerships with scientists & engineers throughout the world in all NSF subjects & priority areas

  • Manage international programs that are catalytic & innovative, develop new models in developed & developing countries

  • Promote access to unique research facilities and opportunities

  • Promote international experiences for junior researchers


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NSF - Frame of Reference

  • NSF is proposal-driven; it is enabling and bottom-up, rather than directive and top-down

  • NSF is fundamentally a domestic agency, with constraints on funding of salaries and equipment for foreign counterparts

  • NSF funds fundamental research, so proposals must demonstrate how science advanced, not how applied problem to be solved (exceptions often in Engineering and CISE)

  • Governing body, National Science Board, charged NSF to work more in developing countries, by forming partnerships with groups that can fund foreign side


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NSF’s SubSaharan Africa Portfolio 1999-2004 Trends

  • Number of awards and total funding have both increased steadily ($23M, 154 awards in FY04 vs. 80 awards, $15M in FY99).

  • Geographic distribution greatly increased. South Africa no longer dominates. Most awards still in southern and eastern Africa; language an issue. In FY03, top 4 countries had 65% proposals, in FY04, top 4 countries had 47%.

  • Disciplinary breadth increasing. Majority still in field sciences – BIO, GEO, Social Science, but other disciplines increasing.


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NSF’s SubSaharan Africa Portfolio 1999-2004 Details

  • Types of proposals – small dissertation projects, workshops, regular research awards, very large projects (each year at least 4 projects >$1M)

  • Includes projects from some of NSF’s most competitive programs – e.g, Biocomplexity, ITR, CAREER/PECASE, Ecology of Infectious Disease

  • Growing number of projects give young scientists and engineers international research experience (e.g., Research Experiences for Undergraduates, Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship, Post-Doctoral fellowships).


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NSF’s SubSaharan Africa Portfolio 1999-2004 Details

  • Most awards are in geosciences, biology and social sciences (anthropology and geography)

  • Awards in other disciplines are on the increase

    • US/Africa Materials Institute at Princeton University, 5 US universities and researchers and students in 16 African countries ($2.85M)

    • Power Engineering group at Howard U, Washington State and RPI working with Nigeria and Ghana

    • Southern Africa Large Telescope


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PI meeting – Research on Environment in SubSaharan Africa

  • January 2005 meeting at NSF – 50-60 US PI’s, 15 graduate students and post-docs, 20 Africans who collaborate on NSF projects, other agencies who can fund – USAID, Carnegie, Kellogg, Fulbright, etc.

  • Build a community, strengthen all activities, seek other partners so that these projects are sustainable, with true intellectual partnership with foreign collaborators; report forthcoming.

  • Also had a one-day satellite meeting on the IT challenges of doing this research

  • How to build and sustain international networks? IT is essential!!


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International Cyberinfrastructure

  • NSF’s role – link US scientists with their colleagues- particularly where there are data-intensive activities – e.g., physics, astronomy – but also environmental, atmospheric, global change, seismic, genomic, museum

  • Right now, Africa, Middle East, South Asia not well connected

  • How to rectify – learn from experience of other regions

  • Need regional cooperation, so that US can link to regional academic networks as International Research Networks Connections. Archived program announcement:

  • http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2004/nsf04560/nsf04560.htm


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More information

  • Visit OISE homepage

    http://www.nsf.gov/div/index.jsp?div=OISE

    ---overseas research institutions, foreign research funding counterparts, and international science and engineering organizations

    ---helpful information on research & study abroad (e.g., visas, permits, customs regulations, & travel warnings)

  • Contact OISE program manager and disciplinary program officer with questions

  • Search awards on NSF website

    http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/index.jsp


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WWWeb Invisibility of African scientists

  • Surveyed websites of 26 SSA universities in 12 nations with NSF awards; Eng., Bio., Geology & Geography Dpt

  • Looked for basic info on scientists – name, courses taught, research interests, projects, CV, contact info -- info needed to find collaborator, make contact after reading journal article

  • Results – can find very little information:

    • 10 universities - no info (inc. S. Afr, Nigeria, Uganda)

    • 25-50% of depts provide no names

    • Research interests provided in <20% depts

    • CV provided in < 15% depts


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WWWeb Invisibility of African scientists

  • Consequences – in spite of increasing numbers of PhD’s and publications, faculty – immense African resource is largely undiscoverable, underutilized

  • OISE requires intellectual collaboration; NSF-funded scientists can’t find African collaborators

  • Advantages to international collaboration immense – intellectual, monetary, training – strengthen institution, faculty, students, nations!

    Solutions….Work with groups funding IT physical and human infrastructure;

    ….Engage universities to develop and support policy;

    ….Encourage councils with inventories to put them on web


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