CRDF Global Gives a Boost to Scientists in Developing Countries

Science does society a tremendous amount of good. We can stop disease outbreaks, curb environmental pollution, save endangered animal species, grow more food for hungry human populations, and so on, only because communities of scientists innovate ways to achieve these things. Unfortunately, the many developing countries that need scientific expertise the most don’t have the funds or the technical capacity that their scientists require. That’s where CRDF Global comes in. This U.S. nonprofit exists to help scientists in the world’s less affluent countries gain the resources that they need to conduct their research and possibly help solve their countries’ problems.  

CRDF Global was born in 1992 with a combination of public and private funding and with a congressional charter that directed it to help Russia and the other new former-Soviet republics convert obsolete military installations into civilian research centers. This was the nonprofit’s exclusive area of operations for its first few years. But it’s expanded since then to more than 50 additional countries, including Burma, Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, and North Korea.

Wherever it goes, it finds local researchers and offers them training, gives them grants to pursue new projects, and builds new web-based virtual libraries that they can use to look up peer-reviewed scientific literature online. It also helps them to network. CRDF Global teams have helped their beneficiaries to use the web to get in touch with researchers in other parts of the globe. And it’s organized numerous collaborative ventures in which the local researchers and U.S.-based researchers take on new endeavors together.

Let’s talk a bit more about those grants. CRDF Global’s grants program makes a point of keeping pace with the changing world. That is to say, it funds a completely different slate of research areas every year. If you want to try for a grant, your first step would be to visit the foundation’s website and scroll to the “Current Funding Opportunities” page to see what it’s currently funding and whether your research area is a match.

Visit the page now and you’ll see that this year, CRDF Global is running a Food Systems Innovation grants program. Unfortunately, the current deadline for this grant cycle ended March 16. Also on this year’s roster were Chemical Security Improvement grants, for which the deadline also passed on March 1. Deadlines for two grant programs for security in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively, ended on March 31; however, the disease-prevention program, ebola-treatment program, and chemical-safety program all accept submissions until late December.

The grantees are a diverse bunch. Not only do they span the globe; they also represent just about every field of scientific endeavor. But they are generally affiliated with their resident countries’ official governmental research agencies. This nonprofit is still a U.S. government-sponsored entity, and it tends to work on a government-to-government basis. The grantees also tend to work on projects that could tangibly improve human or environmental well-being. A third commonality, though it doesn’t hold true for all, is that a lot of the grantees were working in tandem with U.S. researchers. Here are some examples: 

  • In 2010, CRDF Global awarded grants to Middle Eastern and African researchers who were pursuing new treatments for blindness and vision impairments. Preference went to researchers who had one or more U.S. researchers on their teams.
  • In 2011, it teamed up with Ukraine’s State Agency for Science, Innovations, and Informatization to give out grants of up to $88,000 each to teams of U.S. and Ukrainian scientists to research new energy-efficiency and renewable-energy technologies.
  • In 2014, it awarded two-year grants to scientists in Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Higher Education to research infectious microbes and develop new methods for tracking and preventing epidemics. A similar batch of grants went out to scientists in Iraq’s ministries of Health, Agriculture, and Science and Technology to do the same.

Scientific progress doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Great minds only achieve great research breakthroughs when they have funding, lab equipment, and colleagues who can work with them. CRDF Global sees to it that no matter where a promising scientist may live, he or she has all of the above and anything else necessary for making the next big discovery happen.