Sustainability experts receive travel grants to provide training in developing countries

New Elsevier Foundation-TWAS program sends Visiting Experts to train researchers in sustainability science

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Prof. Jane Polston of the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Florida is hosted as a visiting expert by the College of Agricultural and Applied Biology at Can Tho University in Vietnam, August 2015. (Photo by Nguyen Quoc Tuan)

By 2030, we will live in a better world. We’ll achieve universal access to safe drinking water. Housing will be safe and affordable, and waste will be recycled and reused. Energy and technology will be clean and renewable. Or we can let our planet continue to wrestle with an exploding population, food security, climate change, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, poor sanitation and unsustainable energy resources.

Sustainability Science involves better understanding these challenges and finding new ways to do business, and it underlies the UN Sustainable Development Goals adopted a year ago. Promoting research in the field means a better understanding of these challenges, and helps find new ways to do business and reduce inequalities.

To support these goals and the science that will help achieve them, The Elsevier Foundation and The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) for the advancement of science in developing countries have joined forces to support sustainability expertise in developing countries and further knowledge exchange. Through the new Sustainability Visiting Expert Programme, distinguished professors in sustainability sciences will be able to give lectures and seminars, supervise students and conduct research in host institutions in the developing countries. The aim is to establish long-term links with world leaders in sustainability and boost capacity-building, especially in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). The program will provide up to $4,000 to cover the cost of travel, visas, accommodations and other expenses related to the visit.

Starting in January, four candidates will spend at least two weeks in host institutions in Liberia, South Africa, Cambodia and Lesotho, teaching classes and giving workshops on sustainability science. The candidates have been chosen for their expertise and commitment to knowledge exchange in sustainability.

Ylann Schemm, Program Director of the Elsevier Foundation, talked about the impetus behind the initiative:

We learned a great deal from the 2015 Sustainability Science in a Global Landscape report conducted by Elsevier and SciDev.net, which pointed out not just how quickly the field of sustainability science is growing but also a disturbing North-South divide. Only 2 percent of all sustainability science is produced by low-income countries, which paradoxically experience the toughest challenges in water and food security and climate change. Our goal is to promote long-term North-South exchange and support developing countries in finding the sustainability solutions that work best for them.

"In our experience at TWAS, we have found that visiting experts are a highly efficient way to share knowledge and to build global networks," said Dr. Mohamed H.A. Hassan, TWAS's interim Executive Director. "The Sustainability Visiting Experts will be enormously valuable, as they will inject practical, multi-disciplinary knowledge and experience that will be crucial for the future of healthy communities, both South and North."

Meet the experts

Yahkat Barshep, PhDDr. Yahkat Barshep of the AP Leventis Ornithological Research Institute, University of Jos, Nigeria, will be visiting the University of Liberia. The University’s Forestry Department recently created a module in Biodiversity Conservation and established conservation research and training centre, the Sapo Conservation Centre. To boost research opportunities, the University will host Dr. Barshep from January to February 2017. Her main lines of research are biodiversity and ecological monitoring. She will support the teaching of Biodiversity Conservation modules and train in scientific writing. Dr. Barshep also pledged to keep supporting the students remotely, initiating a long-term collaboration with the University of Liberia. She called this program “a wonderful opportunity to share ideas, exchange expertise, and form collaborations within the region.”

Nicole van Abel, PhDDr. Nicole van Abel, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at US Agency for International Development, is an environmental engineer with a focus on safe and sustainable water resources. She will train and assist post-graduate students in development, validation, and application on risk assessment models at the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Health Sciences, which is working to develop in-house capacity for risk assessment of microbially polluted water.

Tonni Agustiono Kurniawan, PhDDr. Tonni Agustiono Kurniawan, currently a visiting scholar at Chaoyang University in China, will support the Technology Institute of Cambodia. As an expert in water purification technology and solid waste management, he is keen to be involved in transfer of knowledge through seminars, workshops, lectures and research collaboration with the institute. He is expected to begin his research stay in summer 2017. “Recently Cambodia has been confronted with sustainability issues such as water pollution and energy shortage,” he said. “If there is a field where people can think globally and act locally through scientific research, it is sustainability. In science, the path to knowledge and innovation has always been travelled best in company. A small group of thoughtful people can change the world.”

Martin Meyer-Renshhausen, PhDDr. Martin Meyer-Renshhausen, Dean of the Darmstadt Business School and Professor of Energy Management and an expert in energy and climate change, will be hosted by the University to Lesotho. In addition to holding “train the trainers” sessions at the Energy Economics and Management Department, Dr. Meyer will play a fundamental role in setting up the University of Lesotho’s Energy Research Centre and co-teaching the country’s first course in Energy Economics, Finance and Project Management. He writes: “This travel grant provides a great opportunity to implement training concepts on sustainable energy in Lesotho that were developed within a 4-year capacity building project, funded by the EU. Furthermore, it is encouraging us to start a joint research projects in the field of power tariff reforms in Lesotho and to prepare publications that will be finalized during my stay in July/August 2017.”


To apply to the Visiting Expert Program

The Elsevier Foundation-TWAS Sustainability Visiting Expert Program considers experts in the field of sustainability science and places a strong emphasis on equal opportunities. Nominations of women scientists are particularly welcomed.

More information on the program and application process can be found on the TWAS website.

The deadline to apply for the 2017 grants is March 1, 2017.

The Elsevier Foundation-TWAS “Sustainability Case Studies” Competition

With just 2 percent of sustainability science produced by researchers in low- and medium-income regions, the world needs young scientists from developing countries to take an ambitious approach to their research. To address these needs, and as part of the overall response to the SDGs and along with the Sustainability Visiting Expert program, the Elsevier Foundation and TWAS are launching a “Sustainability Case Studies” competition for early career researchers from developing countries. The competition is designed to catalyze the involvement of young researchers from developing countries in sustainability science as a whole and to encourage a deeper understanding of how science — and developing world scientists — can contribute to society and the SDGs at large. For their write-ups, scientists may choose one of six areas derived from the SDGs: green and sustainable chemistry, energy, agriculture and food security, science education and the workforce, climate change and disaster and risk reduction.

The deadline to apply is February 1, 2017.

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