the world academy of sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries

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11 November 2016

TWAS Research Grants: A world to discover

In a new film, scientists from every region of the developing world describe how a TWAS Research Grant powered their work to improve food productivity, fight malaria and assess threatened resources.

They are early career scientists working in different fields, based in laboratories spanning from Chile to Benin, from Uzbekistan to Vietnam. But each one shares a common story: thanks to a TWAS Research Grant, the scientists were able to pursue their work with greater energy and greater confidence.

Their successes are featured in a new film on the TWAS Research Grants programme, released 14 November at the TWAS General Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda. The stories show how a grant for laboratory equipment and supplies can help produce new knowledge that improves food production, fights malaria and protects environmental resources. And through such successes, the grants also build careers.

"It's very difficult to do research in Benin if, let's say, you do not have money to buy some equipment or have money to go into the field," says Romain Lucas Kakai, a biostatistician at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Cotonou. "With a TWAS Research Grant, I was able to publish many papers. And now, thanks to TWAS, I'm the youngest full professor in my university."

The Research Grants began in 1986 and are one of TWAS's earliest and most influential programmes. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) began funding the grants in 1991; more recently, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) has become a partner in the Research Grants programme.

In all, TWAS and its partners have distributed more than 2,200 grants in some 80 countries, totaling more than USD17 million. This year, the grant application deadline was 31 May.

One recent TWAS grant recipient was Luna Kamau, an entomologist at the Kenya Medical Research Institute in Nairobi. "In Kenya," she says, "75% of the population is at risk of malaria infection. By controlling the vector (the mosquito), we are able to control the disease at an early stage so that malaria does not become a problem."

Other scientists featured in the film are Phuong Tuyet Nguyen, a chemist at Vietnam National University in Hanoi; Dilfuza Egamberdieva, a microbiologist at the National University of Uzbekistan; Luis Larrondo, a biochemist at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago; and Achille Ephrem Assogbadjo, an agronomist at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin.

The new film, running a little over five minutes, was directed by Nicole Leghissa, who has completed a number of films on the Academy's work and programmes for science and researchers in the developing world. To see more, visit the TWAS YouTube page.

Edward W. Lempinen

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