Elsevier Foundation’s new programs support STEM diversity and developing country partnerships

Partnerships will focus on innovation in health information, research ecosystems, and nurse faculty leadership

The Elsevier Foundation has launched a series of partnerships in the fields of health information delivery, research ecosystems in developing countries, diversity in STEM, and nurse leadership. With an annual budget of about $1 million, the new programs have evolved from a decade of successful programming with the New Scholars program to advance women in science and the Innovative Libraries in Developing Countries program. The new initiatives, which will run through 2018, draw from the experiences, communities and distinctive needs identified in these programs.

At the AAAS annual meeting, Elsevier Foundation Executive Director David Ruth (left) and Program Director Ylann Schemm (second from right), listen to Dr. Dang Thi Oanh, 2015 Elsevier Foundation award winning mathematician from Vietnam. (Photo by Alison Bert)David Ruth, the foundation’s Executive Director, explained the basis of the plans: “Through our programming, we’ve learned a great deal about the challenges faced by researchers, doctors, universities and libraries in developing countries as well as those faced by women scientists around the world. With over 100 grants and $5 million invested in these communities, we think this is right moment to move to a more intensive partnerships model which will enable us to address research ecosystems, global health and diversity in science more broadly. This also offers us a more direct approach than our traditional request for proposals.”

The foundation’s new programs reflect an overarching commitment to the newly ratified UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the five essential elements for delivering sustainable development: Peace, People, Prosperity, Planet and Partnerships. “In essence, we have expanded and adapted the focus of our partnerships to align more closely with emerging challenges for the science, technology and health communities in health information delivery, diversity in the STEMM pipeline and boosting sustainability research in developing countries,” Ruth explained. The new programs will join the longstanding Nurse Faculty Leadership Academy partnership and the employee matching gift program.

Innovations in health information

Nurses receive instruction in mobile nursing education in Kenya through Amref’s Jibu pilot. (Credit: Amref)Information technology has the potential to vastly improve the delivery of health care and positively affect overall health outcomes. This program will support organizations directly involved in clinical care and focus on the role of information technologies in boosting global health and delivering evidence based content to underserved communities.

One new partnership in the program is Amref Health Africa’s project to support mobile nursing education in Kenya. Amref Health Africa works with the most vulnerable African communities through its laboratory, clinical outreach and training programs in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, South Africa and Senegal.

Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Amref’s Group CEO, explained the goal of the partnership between the foundation and Amref. “We both believe that better health starts with a well-educated and informed workforce. In order to decrease the number of unnecessary deaths of mothers and children in Africa, it is vital to invest in human resources for health. For many people in Africa, a nurse is the only medical professional they will see in their whole life. With the support of the Elsevier Foundation, we will make sure that this nurse has all the knowledge and information that she needs literally in her hand — accessible via her mobile phone.”

New Scholars: Diversity & Inclusion in STEMM

Professor Maggie Dallman (center) does science outreach in a London school as part of Imperial College London’s Maker Challenge Programme. (Photo courtesy of Imperial College London)

The future of science requires a robust and diverse workforce drawing from all corners of society. Many organizations point to the pervasive challenge of expanding and diversifying the pool of future researchers, educators and practitioners and the untapped resource of young people who have the potential for careers in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math and medicine) but who come from communities without the educational resources or exposure to professional STEMM career role models. The New Scholars program will continue to advance women in science and add exciting new partnerships supporting underserved youth and science and health education. Partnerships are being launched in three global centers of STEM: London, New York and Amsterdam.

In Amsterdam, the IMC Weekend School will receive a $100,000 grant over four years to provide science and health educational enrichment for urban youth.

Imperial College London’s science outreach program for schools (Credit: ICL)In London, Imperial College has created a program to support more than 100 young people from disadvantaged urban communities to become the next generation of “makers” and entrepreneurs. The students will enhance their tech skills and develop creative ideas from concepts to prototypes, with a 3-year $300,000 grant from the Elsevier Foundation.

The Maker Challenge Programme will enable 14- to 18-year-olds to engage with cutting-edge science, engineering and design. It will be held in a dedicated makerspace at Imperial’s White City Campus, with support and expertise from staff and students of the world top 10 universities. “This project will change lives and unleash the talent of some of London’s most disadvantaged young people,” said Prof. Maggie Dallman OBE, Associate Provost, Academic Partnership, at Imperial College London. “From design, coding and manufacturing to pitching and negotiating, we are determined that the skills developed in (this) challenge will open doors for these students.”

In the US, the foundation will support the New York Academy of Sciences’s Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program. This program is designed to reach the city’s most underserved children in partnership with the Youth and Community Services Department of the City of New York. It trains graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to teach hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) activities to more than 1,300 fourth- through eighth-graders each year. The STEM professionals/mentors have spent more than 100,000 instructional hours with students in low-resource settings. With funding from the Elsevier Foundation, the academy will be able to expand this program into geographically isolated neighborhoods across New York City.

“The beauty of this program is that not only do kids learn critical STEM skills, which are increasingly important for many types of jobs, but they also learn that STEM professionals can look just like them,” said Dr. Meghan Groome, Senior VP of Education at NYAS. “They meet, often for the very first time, real live scientists and engineers who are young, passionate, and come from diverse backgrounds. Suddenly, they start to see that not only is STEM interesting, but it’s something that they can do, too.”

Research Ecosystems & Sustainability

On the eve of the UN ratification of the new sustainability development goals, Elsevier and SciDev.net released a special report mapping the global research landscape underpinning the SDGs: Sustainability Science in a Global Landscape. The report revealed that only 2 percent of sustainability science is produced by developing countries which are also facing some of the toughest challenges in water and food security and climate change. The Elsevier Foundation’s new Research Ecosystems program addresses the North-South divide in developing country researchers’ contributions to sustainability science whether in global health, gender studies, agriculture or green chemistry.

Visiting researchers at one of the CAS-TWAS Centers of Excellence in Beijing. The Elsevier Foundation grant will provide travel grants for PhDs, postdocs, mobility fellowships and more. (Photo by Ed Lempinen)Our three key partnerships include a new Publishers without Borders partnership with the African Journal Partnership Program; an expanded Librarians without Borders program; and the TWAS North-South Collaboration for Sustainability, which will deepen the involvement of developing country scientists with fellowships for PhDs, postdocs and visiting professors in the fields of sustainability. Prof. Romain Murenzi, the Executive Director of TWAS, The World Academy of Sciences and a key advocate of building scientific capacity and excellence in the developing world, said: "This grant represents a commitment to continuing and expanding an important collaboration between the Elsevier Foundation and TWAS," Murenzi said. "We are confident that it will produce valuable, positive impacts in advancing the science of sustainability in the developing world."

The African Journal Partnership Project “partners northern journals and publishers with African medical and health journals to help strengthen these journals and raise the visibility of African medical and health research,” said Annette Flanagin, Co-Director, African Journal Partnership Project and Executive Managing Editor, JAMA and The JAMA Network Journals. Now, Elsevier’s publisher volunteers will be participating in the partnership through the foundation’s Publishers without Borders program.

The Librarians without Borders (LWB) activities focus on research capacity building in low-income countries by conducting workshops and developing training material for the Research4Life programs. Kevin Baliozian, Executive Director of the Medical Library Association (MLA), stated: “Since 2007, the work of the E-Library Training Initiative has been key to MLA’s mission of enhancing the quality of healthcare, education and research around the world.” He said the renewed funding would allow them to expand the scope of the initiative to include additional MLA trainers, “helping to empower information professionals in dozens of developing countries over the next few years.”

Lenny Rhine, Training Coordinator for LWB said:

When we are doing exercises for searching in Research4Life-related databases, I encourage each participant to search for material in ‘an area of interest to you’. Often the person finds a key article on a topic that he or she has been pondering for several years. Instead of completing the subsequent exercises, the participant reads the article. I just smile to myself because I know this person will become a regular user of the R4L resources

Elsevier Connect Contributor

Ylann SchemmYlann Schemm (@ylannschemm) serves as the Elsevier Foundation Program Director which, provides partnership grants to advance global health, research and sustainability in developing countries and promote diversity in science. She is also the chair of the communications team for Research4Life, a unique UN-pan publisher partnership to provide free or low cost access to researchers in the developing world. Ylann is based in Amsterdam.

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