On November 3-4, the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science held a Final Evaluation Meeting to decide on the winners of its inaugural competition cycle. Launched by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs of the UAE earlier this year, and overseen by the UAE National Center of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS), the program is an ambitious initiative of global scope designed to stimulate rain enhancement research. The final objective is to use the insights from this research to increase rainfall and help arid and semi-arid countries overcome their water scarcity through the deployment of a range of scientific, technological and methodological resources. The winners of this year’s competition will be announced at a special award event during the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in January 2016.
His Highness Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, said: “Water is one of the seven pillars of the UAE’s Innovation Strategy – driving scientific and technological advancement to address water security is a strategic priority for the UAE government that will position our country as a global hub of innovation in this field. To this end, the UAE government launched the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science as an ambitious program of international scope designed to lead efforts to help secure access to fresh water through rainfall. Such efforts will also serve our national objective of building a diverse and sustainable knowledge economy. Through playing our part in facilitating scientific and intellectual advancement, the UAE is seeking to increase the momentum of rain enhancement research and ensure its application for the benefit of all.”
The USD 5 million program has seen a remarkable level of international interest since it was announced in January this year.
Following the close of our initial deadline in April this year, 325 scientists and researchers affiliated to 151 organizations had applied to participate in the Program. These applicants, drawn from 34 countries around the world, cooperated as scientific teams on the submission of a total of 78 pre-proposals to the program. In May, the Program’s Technical Committee then narrowed these submissions down to a shortlist of 15 research teams, from which full proposals were requested from each team’s Principal Investigator. The overall evaluation process culminated in a final expert panel to select the winners of the competition from the Technical Committee’s shortlist. In accordance with best practice in international scientific competitions, the review process has been structured in such a way as to protect the identity of evaluators, reviewers and candidates until the process is completed with the awards ceremony in January 2016. The winning proposals include some highly innovative ideas that could make major contributions to the field of rain enhancement.
His Excellency Dr Abdullah Al Mandoos, Executive Director of the National Center of Meteorology & Seismology (NCMS), said: “The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science has had an outstandingly successful first year and made a global mark as an enabler of scientific research in broad range of fields related to rain enhancement methodology, operations and result verification. We are proud to have been able to play our part in supporting the UAE’s Innovation Strategy. Rain enhancement is a relatively marginalised field of research that we are determined to revitalise. Finding new solutions to the water sustainability challenge will be of immense benefit to the UAE and other global regions threatened with water scarcity.”
Dr Kathie L. Olsen, Founder and Managing Director of ScienceWorks International, LLC, a consulting firm helping people and organizations succeed in science and engineering research, acted as Panel Chair of the committee,. Dr Olsen said: “The final review panel meeting, involving distinguished researchers from UAE and around the world, evaluated a short list of outstanding international research proposals in the field of rain enhancement. All of these ambitious and innovative projects demonstrated the creativity needed to further the quest to achieve water sustainability in arid and semi-arid regions. They addressed all aspects of rain enhancement research, from fundamental understanding to deploying the latest scientific and technological concepts in real-world situations. The global attention given to this program is a testament to its timely initiative in reviving interest in an underfunded field of science.”
The Final Evaluation committee, which featured a 10-strong experts panel supported by a large number of ad hoc reviewers, selected the winners after two days of intensive discussions. In accordance with international best practice, all of the proposals were confidentially examined by the reviewers on the basis of very strict criteria.
Alya Al Mazroui, Program Manager of the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science, said: “The global success of the first cycle of our program and the quality of this year’s winning proposals confirms that the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science could make a real difference in tackling water scarcity in arid and semi-arid regions. All of the winning proposals that were selected were subject to criteria according to a weighted score. The five criteria are: Overall Scientific and Technical Merit, Significance and Innovation (30%); Approach, Project/Delivery Plan, Milestones and Deliverables (20%); Investigator/Team (20%); Required/Available Resources and Budget (20%); and Capacity Building (10%).”
“All of the criteria mentioned needed to be met for an application to be considered in its entirety, and this was of fundamental importance for the final assessment of each proposal and the eventual decision reached”, added Al Mazroui.
Launched this year, the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science will announce up to five projects as winners of a total grant of USD 5 million to be awarded over a three-year period at a ceremony in January 2016. An initiative of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science is designed to encourage the development of existing science and technology used to enhance rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions.