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UK researchers to take the lead in international partnerships

06 Jul 2011

Almost £1·5m is once again being made available this year for UK environmental scientists taking a lead in international research projects.

Last year the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) launched a scheme that encourages collaboration with international partners. It has just awarded the first six grants under the International Opportunities Fund, which together are worth £1·4m. NERC is now inviting proposals for the next funding round.

One of the new grants is the first NERC collaboration with Brazilian researchers under an agreement with the Research Council for the State of São Paolo (FAPESP), which seeks to promote collaboration by simplifying the application and peer review process for joint projects.

Professor Gordon McFiggans from The University of Manchester is leading the UK part of the UK-Brazilian project, which aims to establish a network of researchers to study the composition of the Amazonian atmosphere and its potential influence on the regional and global climate.

He said, "The increasing influences of people and pollution in Amazonia could lead to much greater climatic impacts in the future. We are partnering Professor Paulo Artaxo in Brazil, who has already established the state of science in the area and built up a climatology research network.

"We will now build on this foundation and add value by pulling together research done by scientists in our two countries, providing an office in the UK to act as a central hub, and producing a framework for future collaborative atmospheric research."

The UK-Brazil collaborative office will be based at the University of Manchester. The researchers will consult with stakeholders in both countries to begin the process of producing a strategy framework for future work.

Commenting on the joint application process, Professor McFiggans said, "Brazil is a rapidly emerging economy with particularly strong expertise and relevance to global environmental change, so the joint application with FAPESP is an important development. The single application process avoided several barriers that can exist when collaborative proposals are reviewed independently by funding agencies."

Other new projects to win funding under the first call of the International Opportunities Fund were:

A proposal to develop a Global Volcano Model;
Plans to build on an established Global Carbon Project;
A collaborative research network for measuring the Earth's surface temperatures;
A Global Alliance for Continuous Plankton Recording surveys; and
An assessment of the Southern Ocean ecosystem's response to climatic and environmental changes.
All of these projects are building on, and adding value to, existing research.