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Winter/Spring 2010 Vol. 10 Number 1

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Installation of solar pumping capabilities in the Pakistani village of Ali Masjid, one of the projects in the Pakistan-United States Science and Technology Cooperation Program, administered by the National Research Council
Program Partners U.S.
and Pakistani Scientists

Two engineers from Michigan State University and a counterpart in Risalpur, Pakistan, are exploring ways to help Pakistan recycle the asphalt pavement on its roadways -- currently deteriorating because of steep growth in traffic over the last two decades. A scientist from the University of California and a researcher from Faisalabad are collaborating to develop varieties of wheat that can thrive in soils with high salt content, common in many areas of Pakistan. And a doctor from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is joining with a colleague in Karachi to study antibiotic resistance.

These are only a few of over 40 projects supported by a program run by the National Research Council and funded by the U.S. and Pakistani governments. The program offers grants to researchers from both countries who wish to collaborate on projects to boost research at Pakistani universities and use science and technology to improve the well-being of ordinary Pakistanis. In three competitions held since 2005, the program has awarded 46 grants spanning up to three years in length. Each country contributes funds to support the program, and both countries have parallel peer-review processes to weigh the merits of projects competing for grants.

"I see the program as a model of real collaboration between Americans and Pakistanis, as opposed to a one-way assistance program," said Kelly Robbins, who oversees the program for the National Research Council. "By working together on projects of practical importance, participants in the program build individual and institutional links in a wide range of fields unrelated to military or counterterrorism operations, which are often seen as the basis for the relationship between our countries."

The program has had to navigate some challenges, such as visa snags that delayed or prevented some researchers from traveling back and forth. But it has also produced concrete results: One project that provided solar-powered water pumps to six villages led to lower rates of skin and gastrointestinal diseases in residents who now have more reliable access to clean water. Another trained hundreds of Pakistani health care professionals in infection control procedures.

Interest in the program is growing; for grants to be awarded in 2010, organizers received 270 proposals, far more than the 100 to 120 submitted in previous competitions. "Despite fluctuations in the political relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan in the last few years, the program has drawn increasing numbers of applicants and the Pakistani co-sponsors have repeatedly expressed support for continuing and expanding the activity," said Robbins.
— Sara Frueh

Visit the program site  for more information.

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Copyright 2010 by the National Academy of Sciences