WASHINGTON D.C. — Among several of the United States’ initiatives to promote education for those abroad exists a program that combines research and higher education to support development. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), along with other governmental agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, USDA, NASA and the Smithsonian Institution, support the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research, or PEER.
Project-awarded PEER research grants fall in line with USAID development objectives, including food security, global health and sustainable economic growth.
Those who apply to PEER can be either students or researchers based at non-profits or governmental labs. Also, applicants must find a U.S. government partner who will assist them from one of the departments in the PEER collaboration. Applicants then submit a proposal which, if it gets through two phases, has the opportunity to get funded.
Because of its structure, the program allows for proposals dealing with broad focuses like, climate change or food security; but there are other, more specific focus areas such as education in Haiti. After five cycles since 2011, the PEER initiative has provided resources for over 250 projects and invested over $40 million in projects.
According to USAID, the success of these projects leads to success for researchers and a higher chance of these researchers going on and creating larger developmental impacts.
Examples of projects that researchers have used PEER research grants to fund include: looking into ways to tap into dryland soil moisture in Kenya, finding methods to prevent another Ebola outbreak in Liberia and using various tools to adapt to climate change in the Dominican Republic.
One specific project illustrates ways to implement smart buildings in Morocco with renewable energy.
Mohamed Riduan (Al Akhawayn University) won one of the PEER researchs grant and used the money to fund research on renewable energy and smart technology. Riduan’s project tries to integrate solar energy into one smart building in its first stage, then other buildings in the university and later will create a small micro-grid, a campus that powers itself. Finding ways to do this will help Morocco reach its goal of 52 percent of its energy coming from renewable sources.
Another project involves landfills, polluted water and renewable energy.
Wiratni Budhijanto (Gadjah Mada University) also won a PEER grant and used the money to convert solid waste from a landfill in Jakarta into renewable energy. Leachate is a byproduct of water running through waste from landfills. The polluted water would normally run through cities and towns; however, with Budjijanto’s approach, both the leachate and solid waste would turn into bio-gas, providing a source of electricity.
Essentially, the PEER projects lay out the groundwork for the entire world to solve some of the largest problems of extreme poverty and global economic growth. By linking researchers from abroad and those working with U.S. governmental agencies, PEER aids researchers and organizations looking to combat international poverty. This program and its results demonstrate the importance of U.S. engagement in research.
– Selasi Amoani