leader, were considered for support as a direct extension of the ARS program. External peer review was not utilized.
For successful preliminary proposals, the first step was funding of a visit by the cooperating Russian scientists for 1 to 3 weeks to the research facility of the ARS scientist. If the ARS or Russian scientists were not enthusiastic about cooperation after this visit (e.g., a mismatch of capabilities and interests), the process would stop. Otherwise, a full proposal was prepared in ISTC format and reviewed by the governments of the two countries and the ISTC according to ISTC’s established procedures.
The ARS review focused, among other things, on compliance with various guidelines, including animal care and use. A requirement for reciprocal yearly visits was included in the proposal. If a proposal was received from a Russian scientist and no U.S. collaborator was named, an effort would be made to locate ARS scientists with relevant skills. Once the proposal was approved, the ISTC then played a key role in providing oversight and resolving problems directly with Russian project participants.
Russian scientists who were struggling financially and who were outside the mainstream of international collaboration enthusiastically greeted the first official visits to their facilities by ARS personnel. It was immediately apparent to the American visitors that the Russian laboratories had well-trained scientists and resources, including pathogen collections that could provide a basis for productive cooperation. The first four projects were approved in 2000 at two Russian laboratories. From 2000 to 2011, about 50 projects were established at Russian laboratories. The program in Russia and other countries that emerged from the USSR has involved more than 30 ARS laboratories and 27 counterpart institutes, with more than 1,300 participating scientists.
Funds expended by ARS through 2011 totaled $48.2 million, with 45 percent of these funds directed to projects in Russia. Most of the funds were expended in a 7-year period, from 2000 through 2006, when funding available to the ARS for the program totaled $5–6 million annually. Then funding levels dramatically decreased as the priorities of the Department of State changed.
STRENGTHS AND CHALLENGES TO COOPERATION
Surveys of American scientists involved in the program indicated that the strength of the program was the high quality of scientist-to-scientist interactions that was achieved in almost every case. The principal investigators from both countries contributed to the design of the project, agreed on objectives and procedures, and supported the work throughout the project. Reciprocal visits were considered by most to be not just an adjunct to electronic communications but the true core of the collaboration. In addition, many scientists on both sides reported the building of personal relationships that went well beyond the content of the project.