The National Science Foundation (NSF) does not typically award grants to institutions or individuals outside the United States, but the foundation does support American researchers conducting work in collaboration with scientists in Russia and in other countries. The majority of Russian-oriented activity is supported through the Polar, Arctic, and Antarctic research programs, although there are examples of Russian-oriented research that is funded by the biology and other programs of NSF. American scientists who are interested in studies involving Russian colleagues or institutions are encouraged to identify counterparts and the nature of their collaborations in their competitive proposals for supporting their own research.
Examples of topics of recent NSF-supported research activities that have included U.S.-Russian collaborative efforts in the biological sciences include the following:
• Protein folding
• Geothermal bacteria
• Phylogenetic analysis of avian species
• Marine data management
• Arctic river plankton
• Synthetic membranes for use to ensure safe drinking water
• Biodiversity in Lake Baikal
NSF has identified a number of benefits from joint U.S.-Russia efforts. They include, for example, the following:
• Availability of a plethora of varied habitats and biomes, as well as species not identified elsewhere in the world, which enhance the scope and quality of inventories and databases.
• Common interests in the biology and ecology of the Arctic region.
• Talented Russian researchers with experience in working with a wide array of microbial species.
• Extensive seed collections unique to Russia.
• Lower costs of research conducted in Russia than of comparable research carried out in the United States.
Challenges for NSF to fund work in Russia include the following:
• Lack of a mechanism to recoup funds or impose penalties for inappropriate use of NSF funds by foreign institutes or researchers.
• Total reliance on individual American scientists to identify appropriate collaborators.
• Competition for limited funds to be used abroad between activities to be carried out in Russia and activities in other regions of high scientific interest (e.g., ecological studies of tropical regions with important biodiversity issues).
SOURCE: Information provided by NSF, December 2011.