The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), under the Department of Defense (DoD) Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program, established the Collaborative Research (CR) project to facilitate cooperation on biological research between the United States and the former Soviet Union. The purpose of this project is to prevent the proliferation of former Soviet Union biological weapons scientific expertise and technology by expanding scientific cooperation and exchange in peaceful applications of the biological sciences between American research scientists and Russian research scientists who had participated in the biological weapons program of the former Soviet Union.
Since April 1999, the National Research Council (NRC) has assisted DTRA by providing a system of peer reviews for all former Soviet Union-proposed research projects being submitted to the CTR/CR project for funding. These reviews are conducted by the Committee on the Review of Research Proposals for Cooperation with Former Soviet Biological Weapons Personnel and Institutes. The committee’s primary task is to evaluate proposals prepared by Russian researchers for scientific validity, based on established criteria. The committee also conducts site visits to former Soviet Union biological research institutes, helps to identify qualified potential U.S. collaborators, and reviews project technical reports.
The committee meets in person approximately twice each year to evaluate proposals, participate in site visits, and conduct other business. Committee meetings provide a forum for the members to clarify their understanding of individual proposals and agree on proposal ratings.
Prior to each committee meeting, all members receive the proposals. They are expected to read each proposal and be prepared to discuss its merits at the meeting. Any committee member who might be perceived as having a conflict of interest on a specific proposal will be asked to recuse himself or herself from the review and discussion of that proposal. Each proposal is assigned two lead members to evaluate the proposal according to the criteria below and lead the discussion on the proposal. The lead members’ areas of expertise are matched as closely as possible with the proposal’s subject matter, as determined by the chair and the responsible staff officer.
In addition to review of the written proposals, two or more committee members have typically conducted a site visit to each research institute or laboratory being considered for funding. The purpose of the site visit is to determine whether the quality and capacity of the research team, equipment, and facilities are adequate to support any subsequently proposed research. The committee members attempt to visit each facility from which they receive proposals at regular intervals of three to four years, as requested by the sponsor. Because many of the institutes and laboratories are located in the same or nearby geographic areas, it is possible to visit several sites during one trip.