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PEER Research
Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research is a competitive, international grants program that offers scientists researching funds in developing countries to address global development challenges.

PEER Research is designed to leverage federal science agency funding from NASA, NIH, NSF, Smithsonian Institution, USDA and USGS by supporting scientists from impoverished countries in areas including water resource management, climate change, agriculture, nutrition and maternal and child health. Since its launch in 2011, PEER has supported more than 200 projects in over 45 countries, with a total investment of more than $50 million. These projects address gaps in scientific knowledge to combat global poverty.

PEER not only catalyzes collaborative research between scientists in developing countries and their U.S.-funded counterparts but also elevates the use of science and technology to further USAID’s development objectives. “Collaboration is key for accelerating the impact of scientific research on development,” said Ann Mei Chang, USAID’s chief innovation officer and executive director of the U.S. Global Development Lab.

Besides scientific collaboration, PEER Research also hopes to see scientists from developing countries improve their negotiating skills, innovation and commercialization, as well as different methods of communicating research to policymakers in their home countries. In this approach, PEER strives to strengthen the research ecosystem in developing countries and enable partners to become better collaborators in development.

PEER significantly helps strengthen the global scientific research community by providing opportunities for the best scientists to collaborate on crucial development issues. The following are PEER’s past successful stories:

Climate Change

In Southeast Asia, researchers successfully built emissions models for predicting air quality scenarios. The findings have effectively informed policies in Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia to reduce emissions.

Education

In Morocco, researchers have developed a computer-based instructional tool that helps translate Modern Standard Arabic into Moroccan Sign Language in real-time, aiding hearing-impaired students in learning and accessing education.

Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission

In Malawi, researchers work together to evaluate the effectiveness of Option B+, a promising antiretroviral treatment to mother-to-child HIV transmission and inform the public and the government of the results of their work.

“The research partnerships nurtured through this program are crucial to building capacity among local scientists and research institutions, strengthening linkages with international research institutions and finding solutions to global development challenges,” said USAID Vietnam Mission Director Mike Greene.

Yvie Yao

Photo: Flickr

What is PEER?
PEER or, Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research, is a collaboration between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). PEER is a competitive grant program that allocates money to scientists in developing countries, who are working on research that is of importance to the development of their respective regions. PEER focuses on granting money to scientists whose research involves food security, climate change, or other development tools such as biodiversity and renewable energy. PEER attempts to create connections between scientists of developed countries and scientists of developing countries. The grants allow these scientists to conduct research that they would not have been able to do without a grant. PEER is a relatively new program, being two years old.

Alex Dehgan, science and technology advisor to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah commented, “…PEER Science has provided over $12 million to 98 projects in 40 countries, and we are already seeing the tremendous benefits of bringing together developing and developed country researchers to solve some of our greatest global development challenges.”

Previous PEER success stories include reducing the risk of landslides and earthquakes in Lebanon and Bangladesh, decreasing air pollution in Mongolia, and improving the resilience of coral reefs and related habitats in Indonesia. PEER allows scientists in 87 countries to apply.

DeAndra Beck, program director for developing countries at NSF said, “With two or more parties contributing resources, a true intellectual partnership can be established, maximizing the potential to advance the pursuit of science and development in new and creative ways.”

PEER just announced its second cycle of awardees this June. PEER selected 54 new projects to receive a portion of the $7.5 million allocated to this cycle. Awardees were chosen out of 300 highly qualified applicants. These 54 projects reach across 32 countries and will focus on development issues. This has been an incredibly successful program in the short two years it has been running. Its innovative idea to connect scientists all over the developing world has been very effective in solving certain development issues.

– Catherine Ulrich

Sources: National Academies, All Africa
Photo: Minnesota Public Radio