USAID to Help Armenian Science
Perhaps best known for providing humanitarian aid and support for market reform in developing countries, the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) is about to take on a new role: It's setting up a science assistance program in the former Soviet Union (FSU). AID has agreed to bankroll a science grantmaking body in Armenia, a country tucked between Turkey and Iran.
Since Armenia won independence in 1991, the Armenian Academy of Sciences' (AAS's) 42 research organizations have had to skimp by on poor funding and live with intermittent power outages. Hoping to create a system that would sustain Armenia's top scientists, U.S. Ambassador Peter Tomsen last year began pressing the State Department's FSU assistance program to come up with $500,000 in seed money. State persuaded AID to carve out the funds from its $90 million aid package to Armenia.
The U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation will coordinate the initiative, which CRDF director Gerson Sher calls "unique in the history" of aid's FSU assistance program.
Meanwhile, Armenian scientists have had to muster political support for the project particularly among AAS officials, who could see some of their influence wane. As a result, parliament is looking at establishing the Armenian Fund for Science and Advanced Technology, which may be up and running by the fall.
Edited by Jocelyn Kaiser