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Post-Cold War research foundation celebrates 10 years of fostering international science collaborations

Sep 30, 2005
September marks the tenth anniversary of the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation (CRDF), a unique organization created in the wake of the Cold War to foster civilian research collaborations between scientists from the United States and the former Soviet Union (FSU).  
Post-Cold War research foundation celebrates 10 years of fostering international science collaborations

September marks the tenth anniversary of the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation (CRDF), a unique organization created in the wake of the Cold War to foster civilian research collaborations between scientists from the United States and the former Soviet Union (FSU).  

Authorized by Congress in 1992, and established as a nonprofit, non-governmental organization by the National Science Foundation in 1995, CRDF was the brainchild of former California Congressman George Brown, an industrial physicist and chairman of the House Science Committee.

At the core of CRDF are its grants designed to fund collaborative, non-military research projects between U.S. scientists and Eurasian researchers, particularly those with WMD expertise.  

“The CRDF allows scientists from different countries and backgrounds to collaborate on problems of international importance and devise solutions,” said Dona Crawford, associate director for Computation and a member of the CRDF Board. “I have a longstanding interest in nonproliferation and strongly believe that building international partnerships generates new knowledge and advances global security.”  

CRDF helps scientists in the FSU to continue their contributions to world scientific knowledge, and to create more prosperous economies in their region. The Foundation employs former Soviet weapons scientists on civilian research projects, giving them an alternative to selling their knowledge to other countries or terrorist groups.  

Since its inception, CRDF has funded a broad range of research projects including environmental monitoring, HIV/AIDS and cancer, and protecting civilians against terrorism. Commercially-oriented projects have produced, among others, an energy-saving cryogenic process for refrigerating produce during transport, oral treatments for Tuberculosis, and a revolutionary prosthetics design. Additionally, CRDF supports the efforts of other organizations — including U.S. Government initiatives — that seek to engage Eurasian researchers through project development and management, oversight support, merit-based technical review of R&D proposals, and travel logistics.  

“CRDF complements DOE programs that also redirect the research of former Soviet weapons scientists to peaceful scientific and technological pursuits,” said Eileen Vergino, deputy director of the Center for Global Security Research.

For example, CRDF supports two nonproliferation programs in which the Nonproliferation, Arms Control and International Security Directorate (NAI) is involved. It supports the U.S. State Department's Nonproliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction Expertise (NWMDE) program, formerly known as the Science Centers Program, by facilitating comprehensive technical reviews of proposals submitted to the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) and the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine (STCU). These Centers are important multilateral nonproliferation organizations in which the U.S. is a primary participant. The State Department relies on LLNL for technical advice for proposals sent to the Centers. In this role, CRDF helps identify technical peer reviewers for proposals sent to the Laboratory science adviser, who evaluates reviewer comments and makes funding recommendations to the Department of State. 

CRDF also plays a role in the DOE-funded Global Initiatives for Proliferation Program (GIPP).  

“The idea is to encourage former weapons scientists to develop technology-based commercial enterprises,” says Kris Surano of P Division NAI. “Use of CRDF in the funding of GIPP contracts makes sure that scientists working on the projects actually receive the funds directly into their bank accounts and that they enjoy tax-free status for these monies (as has been negotiated with their government).”  

A recent article published by the Commonwealth Club of California, and penned by CRDF Chair Gloria Duffy, addressed CRDF's focus on the future. “With terrorists on the hunt for nuclear weapons, CRDF has recently broadened its geographical range to provide former weapons scientists in Iraq and Libya with productive alternatives for their skills.” Such a move will focus a decade of international science collaboration experience to bear in high priority areas at a critical time. 

Over the past decade, the CRDF has raised and distributed $249 million in taxpayer dollars, private foundation and corporate contributions, to joint scientific research. This has taken the form of awarding over 2,400 grants involving 12,000 scientists, including 2,434 former weapons scientists. 

“It is remarkable,” says Crawford, “that CRDF manages to make a little go a long way in simultaneously advancing science and technology, economic growth and global security. The projects are scientifically and technically worthy and the people involved are incredible. It's amazing what is being done across what used to be a vast divide with a relatively modest investment.”  

For more information about CRDF, visit www.crdf.org.

(This article appears courtesy of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)