Preparation of project proposals for the International Basic Sciences Programme (IBSP)
Answers to questions on the preparation
Under cover of letter of 23 July 2004, a standardized IBSP Project Proposal Form was sent to National Commissions for UNESCO, together with introductory notes giving criteria for identifying and evaluating IBSP project proposals, and guidelines on how to complete the Form and submit proposals. The Form was circulated so as to facilitate the preparation and evaluation of project proposals at the initial phase of the IBSP.
UNESCO has since received a number of requests for additional clarification on the IBSP and the project proposals that may be submitted.
The questions received can be grouped under a few headings principally embracing the terms of reference of IBSP, participating countries, procedural issues and budgetary aspects. Some stem from a lack of knowledge of UNESCO’s mandate and programme.
The present paper has been prepared in response to these enquiries. It is presented in a question/answer form.
2. What is IBSP
Is this a regular programme suitable for a project to be carried out in county X?
The principal goals of the IBSP are building capacities in science, and the transfer and sharing of scientific information and excellence in science through North-South and South-South cooperation.
The IBSP is a regular programme suitable for a project to be carried out in any country. A project submitted within the framework of IBSP should address an issue of regional or international priority and be submitted to UNESCO by partners of at least two different countries, one of which should be a developing country or a country in transition. The participation in the project of least developing countries would be particularly welcome.
IBSP cannot be used to provide assistance to components of an already existing independent project.
The identification of concrete IBSP project proposals is the prerogative of UNESCO’s Member States and partners participating in the IBSP.
3. Scientific fields covered by IBSP
What exactly is the scope of IBSP regarding basic science?
Is learning on cell-cell interaction in cancer or in the mechanism of diseases considered “basic science”?
IBSP promotes capacity building in science, and, in so doing, addresses projects in mathematics, physics, chemistry and the life sciences, and their interdisciplinary areas, in other words, any project that necessitates research in the basic sciences, including that research in the basic sciences which provides a means to solve a problem related to another area. Thus, research on the mechanisms of cell-cell interaction and its implications for combating disease would be a project within the purview of IBSP.
The IBSP is also designed to promote science education, i.e. the university teaching of the basic sciences, the transfer and sharing of scientific information and the popularisation of science.
Projects related to the earth and environmental sciences are not covered by the terms of reference of the IBSP. They are being dealt with within other well-established longstanding UNESCO programmes of the Natural Sciences Sector such as the International Geological Correlation Programme (IGCP), the Man and Biosphere Programme (MAB) and other environmental programmes.
Projects related to the social sciences are of the purview of the Social and Human Sciences Sector of UNESCO and not that of the Natural Sciences Sector. UNESCO is not an organization promoting finance and business. It does not have programmes dealing with economics and management.
4. Definition of a Centre of Excellence
What is the definition of a “Centre of Excellence”?Should a national Centre of Excellence be a public institution?
Is there a list of Centres of Excellence?
Can an (inter)nationally renowned research laboratory of a company in the basic sciences (e.g. Bell labs in the US, IBM labs in Switzerland) apply to support an institutional capacity building programme of a public research institute in a developing country?
There is no list of pre-determined Centres of Excellence that are to be involved in the IBSP.
In his Report to the Executive Board (document 167 EX/8), the Director-General of UNESCO proposed that the IBSP definition of centres of excellence should be broad.
The reference to a centre of excellence could embrace a variety of national, regional or international institutions able to provide services at a standard sought by Member States or regions, and a satisfactory rationale for investment in their activity by interested customers.
A centre of excellence could be a research or training institution, a university or one of its departments, a laboratory, science museum or library, etc. A national centre of excellence need not necessarily be a public institution, though by virtue of the profile of the centres that may be associated with IBSP, this will probably be the case.
A private research laboratory or institution having a high repute in science that is seeking to provide help for an institutional capacity building programme of a research institute in a developing country or a country in transition may apply if it commits itself to providing substantial financial support. Indeed, a project proposal from such an body would be welcome.
5. Partners in a project
Does a project have to be submitted with collaborators from other countries or can it be submitted by just one body?
Is the South African Republic a developing country?
Which countries are “countries in transition”?
Which are the “UNESCO-sanctioned” countries with which
collaboration should not be sought?
Can a project envisage collaboration with a developed country, e.g.
How many institutions should be involved in the same project?
What is meant in Box 7 by“Principal partners in execution
of the project”?
There should be at least two countries involved in any given project. One of these countries should be a developing country or a country in transition. The participation of least developed countries would be particularly welcome. The IBSP is not introducing any new classification of countries. In case of uncertainty on this issue, applicants may consult their National Commission for UNESCO.
Countries that may be involved in a project, and whose collaboration is being sought, should be Member States of UNESCO. A list of UNESCO’s Member States is given on the website of UNESCO .
A developed country may indeed be one of the countries collaborating in an IBSP project.
In Box 7 of the IBSP Project Proposal form, applicants should list those institutions/bodies that are not authors of the proposal, but will be playing a role in its implementation and/or will be providing financial support. Institutions submitting the project proposal should not be listed in this Box. They should be listed in Box 1.
Though there is need for more than one country to be involved in any given project, only one of the participating countries need submit the paper copy of the project proposal to UNESCO. This proposal is to be completed in English or in French and submitted in three copies. It is to be endorsed by the National Commissions for UNESCO of all the countries making the proposal – for more details on this, please refer to point 11 below.
There is no upper limit on the number of institutions that may involved in the same project.
6. Overall budget of a given project and funding secured by the applicant(s)
Should the total budget of the project include financial support from a collaborating institution from another country?
How critical for approval of a project is funding secured by the Member State(s) or other donor(s)?
The partner institutions would certainly provide access to facilities and staff assistance, but it would be extremely difficult to find money.?
If, when submitting an application, the applying country shows the possibility of additional funding, but has not obtained written commitment for this, will the application be rejected?
Do funds secured by the applying institute(s) have to correspond to a given percentage of the overall budget of the project?
The IBSP is not a passive fund-granting programme, but a proactive programme aimed at promoting regional and international cooperation in the field of its mandate with the true involvement of the actors.
Therefore, in any IBSP project there should be firm evidence of the commitment of Member States and/or international partners to assist in ensuring logistic support and participate in the project on a cost-sharing basis.
Though there is no rule laying down the percentage of the overall budget to which such funds should correspond, it is evident that UNESCO will give a higher priority to those projects that generate substantial financial support than it will to those that do not multiply the resources available for capacity building in the basic sciences.
Again, there is no rule stipulating that the total budget should include financial support from a collaborating institution from another country. However, such commitment can only enhance the chances of the project being approved.
If at the time of the submission of the project proposal the applying country is certain that it will receive funding from national or other sources, but it has not yet received a written commitment about this, the proposal will be accepted for evaluation. However, if selected by the IBSP Scientific Committee, the project will only be approved and processed if the said financial support is indeed secured.
7. Funds provided for each project from IBSP
What is the average amount of a grant?
What is bracket of funds that can be provided for a project: i. ess than US$5,000
ii. between US$5,000 – US$15,000
iii. between US$15,000 – US$25,00
iv. more than US$25,000
Can one apply for US$60,000?
Is there a budget ceiling?
Does support for the project include financial support for the collaborating institution from another country?
UNESCO is not a funding agency for science and its budgetary resources are limited. By virtue of its mandate, it acts principally as a promoter of cooperation in science for development and as a purveyor of seed resources that help catalyse funds from national and other sources.
This being the first call for applications within the IBSP programme, it would be premature to provide a definitive reply to a number of the questions raised before they have been thoroughly examined by the IBSP governing body that will only hold its first meeting in early 2005.
At the moment, the average UNESCO contribution to a project could be estimated at approximately US$15,000-US$40,000. Additional contributions may also be received from the Organization’s Participation Programme - for more information on this Programme, applicants should consult their National Commission for UNESCO - and from a fund-raising campaign that will be undertaken by UNESCO for priority projects. The size of the entire budget of the project will, of course, depend on the funds shown in the proposal as having been secured by the applicants.
It should also be recalled that UNESCO’s funds for IBSP will depend on the decision that is taken by Member States at the 33rd session of the Organization’s General Conference in October 2005. This decision may have an impact on the scale of UNESCO’s budgetary contribution to IBSP projects.
Resources are allocated to a project and not to a given institution. They are to be used in line with the budgetary breakdown given in the project proposal. Such a breakdown may, in principle, include a budgetary line for support for a collaborating institution from another country.
8. Modalities of action
Is it possible to use funds to purchase equipment?
Can grants be awarded?
Can small grants for local universities be granted?
Can support be provided for researchers?
Can support be provided for a 3-year PhD programme in a foreign university?
In the framework of the InterAmerican Network of Academies of Science (IANAS) programme on Science Education, can IANAS apply for support for activities such as
Explain modality of action “regional or international research collaboration, for which small grants are envisaged”
In principle, the modalities of action referred to in (a)-(f) above could be admissible. However, this would only be so if they constitute an integral element of a global project whose goals are those outlined in the guidelines for completion of the project proposal. That is to say, the expected end-product of the project should have a far-reaching impact on the infrastructure/knowledge needed to achieve regional development goals and on institutional capacity building at the regional or interregional level, and there should be evidence of the commitment of Member States and/or international partners to assist in ensuring logistic support and participate in the project on a cost-sharing basis. Individual applications for fellowships, research grants, purchase of equipment, travel, etc that are of importance for a single country do not fall within the terms of reference of IBSP, but that of the Organization’s Participation Programme for which support should be applied through the National Commissions for UNESCO.
What is meant by “regional or international research collaboration, for which small research grants are envisaged” is collaboration within a regional or international research project to be carried out by research teams from at least two different countries.
9. Timeframe of projects
What is the duration of a grant?
Bearing in mind that a project embracing more than one biennium should be divided into biennial phases, should a project be submitted anew after two years if, for example, the support being sought is for a 3-year PhD programme?
Needless to say, the duration of a grant depends on the duration of a project. However, in all cases, a grant will not cover a period longer than a biennial period corresponding to the biennial period of UNESCO’s programme and budget. As a point of reference, UNESCO’s current biennial period is 2004-2005.
In cases where it is expected that a project will have a longer time span than a biennial period, there will not be a need to submit the project proposal twice. Instead, when initially preparing the proposal for submission to UNESCO it should be divided into biennial phases. If the proposal is approved, it will then be up the Scientific Board of IBSP to decide whether a grant should also be provided for the period in the second biennial period. This decision will be taken on an ad hoc basis.
All this being said, it must be pointed out that the purpose of IBSP is not to provide support for individual PhD programmes. For more details, please refer to section 8 above “Modalities of Action”.
10. Number of projects that may be submitted
Can a given body submit more than one project?
Though, in principle, there is no legal limitation on the number of project proposals any one body may submit, it would not seem advisable to submit more than one proposal. Indeed, it is unlikely that budgetary constraints and the need to ensure geographical distribution will allow support to be provided for more than one project stemming from the same body.
11. Endorsement of projects by Member States
What is a National Commission for UNESCO that has to endorse the project proposal?
Is it necessary to get the endorsement of the National Commissions for UNESCO of all the countries involved in a project?
A National Commission for UNESCO is a national cooperating body set up by each Member State of UNESCO for the purpose of associating their governmental and non-governmental bodies with the work of the Organization. It is generally composed of representatives of national educational, scientific and cultural communities. A list of National Commissions for UNESCO is given on the website of UNESCO .
It is mandatory for the national institutions making a project proposal to obtain the endorsement of their National Commission for UNESCO. The reason for this is that it is their National Commission that is responsible for associating them in projects being implemented by UNESCO. By endorsing the project, a National Commission will therefore be demonstrating that it is in favour of the project being proposed and it will be confirming the information given in the proposal.
If, because of time constraints or other difficulties, it is not possible to obtain the signature of all the National Commissions in Box 10 of the project proposal form, a signed letter of endorsement on headed paper of the National Commission(s) concerned should be attached to the project proposal.
The only partners that need not obtain the endorsement of a National Commission are autonomous regional or international bodies/ organizations.
12. Submission and Evaluation of projects
What is the maximum length of a proposal?
Which institution is to be listed in Box 1 of the IBSP Project Proposal Form and which should be listed in Box 2?
Can a project proposal be submitted electronically/by fax?
Can the deadline of 10 November 2004 for the submission of applications be extended?
What criteria is used to evaluate projects?
Once a project is submitted to a National Commission, how can applicants keep track of developments with their application?
There is no pre-determined limitation on the length of a proposal. However, persons drafting a proposal should bear in mind that the more a proposal is concise and precise, the more readable it is and this can only be beneficial for the project when it is being evaluated. The length of the boxes in the IBSP Project Proposal form gives an approximate idea of the length of the information to be given. If added space is required, the boxes may be expanded in the case of an electronic copy. In other cases, the remaining information may be given on separate sheets attached to the Form, with a clear indication on each sheet of the box to which they relate.
The name and address of the institutions that are authors of the project proposal and are involved in its implementation should be given in Box 1 of the Project Proposal Form. In Box 2, it is the name and address of other bodies proposing the project, but not implementing it, that should be given (e.g. ministries, international organizations, regional organizations, etc.). In some projects, there will no doubt be no names to be given in Box 2. The name and address of the partners who are in any way involved in the implementation of the project or are providing financial support for it, but are not authors of the project, should be listed in Box 7.
Project proposals submitted electronically or by fax are not receivable.
The deadline of 10 November 2004 set for the submission of applications is being extended to 10 December 2004.
Project proposals will be evaluated by the Scientific Board of the IBSP consisting of scientists from all regions actively engaged in activities in the basic sciences that relate to the objectives of the IBSP, following which the Director-General of UNESCO will select those to be carried out in the framework of IBSP. The principal criteria that will be used when evaluating project proposals will be scientific excellence of the project; its regional or international goals; its relevance to regional priorities in the basic sciences; the UN Millennium Development Goals; etc.
In Box 11 of the Project Proposal form, applicants are requested to give the name, position and full address (including Tel/Fax numbers and e-mail address) of the person(s) responsible for communication/inquiries on the project proposal. UNESCO will communicate with the person(s) listed in the box. Applicants should liaise with the person(s) listed in the box for developments concerning their proposal.
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