Bolstering Women Researchers from LMICs through the PEER Program

Saturday, February 13, 2016
Anjali Kumar, USAID, Washington, DC
Women researchers working in science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM) fields have increased over time but there still exists a large gender gap, specifically in low-and-middle income countries (LMIC). To better understand the researcher gender gap in LMIC, we use the Partnership for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) program as a case study. PEER is an innovative competitive awards program that supports LMIC researchers who collaborate with U.S. Government (USG) supported scientists in carrying out research that has strong development impacts. The program is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the United States National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The PEER programs goals are: (1) to advance understanding and/or evidence of development challenges in LMICs; (2) to support collaboration between LMIC researchers and USG-supported researchers, and USAID Mission and Embassy staff; and (3) to build local research capacity leading to development solutions for country specific challenges.

Using data from 2014 and 2015 applicants, PEER proposals were analyzed for gender balance against the total number of applicants across various geographic regions, and at the country-level. Out of 868 applicants, 225 (25.9%) were female. Latin America had the greatest percentage of female applicants by geographic region with 34.1%, followed by Europe/Eurasia (32.4%), Asia (28.8%), Middle East and North Africa (26.8%), and Africa with the lowest at 17.6%. Applicants from Southeast Asia were extracted for further analysis. Women researchers made up 35.4% of all applicants from Southeast Asian countries, making this region the greatest percentage of women applicants compared to all other geographic regions. Indonesia had the highest percentage of women research applicants at 39.8% (39 applicants out of 98 total) among the Southeast Asian countries. Out of the total 27 applicants from Vietnam, none were female. When percentage of women applicants to PEER was compared to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics Women Scientists (2012), there were a lower percentage of applications to PEER by women overall (20.3% vs. 30%) but a higher percentage in Asia (28.8% vs. 18.9%) and lower percentages in Latin America (34.1% vs. 45.2%) and Africa (17.6% vs. 34.5%). PEER, as a proxy for science funding in LMICs highlights the need to further analyze barriers for women scientists applying science funding. This would ensure that women scientists in LMICs will become valuable contributors to scientific knowledge.