AAAS Research Competitiveness Program Boosts STEM Ecosystems at Home and Abroad

AAAS Research Competitiveness Program Boosts STEM Ecosystems at Home and Abroad

?I was home for a total of five days in June,? McInnis says. ?I love to travel, and in this case, it was fascinating to travel between familiar locations in New England and Bahrain and provide support for similar aspects of research capacity building.?

In fact, much of RCP?s work involves travel to work with universities and governments, and in the past year she has gone to Saudi Arabia three times and recently returned from the adjacent island nation of Bahrain.

Begun in 1997 and staffed primarily by scientists, RCP offers strategic assessment, support for peer review systems, short courses, and other assistance to universities, governmental bodies, project teams and other groups overseeing scientific endeavors, says Charles Dunlap, a geochemist who has worked on STEM capacity-building for more than twenty years and directed RCP since 2015. The idea is to support and boost STEM ecosystems.

Dunlap too traveled to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in the past year. In Bahrain, expansion of the country?s relatively young university system led to the creation of a Higher Education Council to define and oversee research strategy. AAAS was invited to help, and the RCP site visit panel provided recommendations in numerous areas, such as suggesting mechanisms to expand research productivity. Another area of interest was how to build the knowledge-based economy through research that has the potential to be developed commercially, such as drugs or medical devices that might be marketed locally and worldwide.

The Saudi system is more mature. There, Dunlap, McInnis, and Irene Aninye (RCP?s Senior Program Associate) taught a short course on scientific ethics in four cities and helped with efforts that could enhance collaborations with scientists from other countries: RCP also designed and led the review of more than 700 proposals submitted to the International Collaboration Initiative of the Saudi Ministry of Education?s Research and Development Office.

Dunlap says, ?We don?t find doing international science to be dramatically different? from the projects that RCP works on in the US: differences in culture, funding mechanisms, and scope occur across the US as well as among countries. We adapt our approach to support the same goals everywhere ? to do good science and to put it to work solving local problems.

Countries in the Middle East are looking to build knowledge-based economies, especially around science and technology, to support the eventual transition from fossil fuels, Dunlap says.

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