UC MEXUS News
Number 39, Fall 2002

Researchers find more funding options

The programs conceived with the UC-CONACYT agreement received a huge boost with the influx of state funds in 2000.

The graduate student support program was assured of funding and began to grow as had been intended. Postdoctoral, sabbatical and faculty exchange programs, which had been in the planning stages, were fully funded – some for the first time. Special grants and symposia on special research topics became possible and the collaborative grants program was able to reach its full potential.

Mexican students at UC

The funding flowed most quickly into the graduate student support program, which in the fall of 2000 was entering it third year of operation. The 2000-2001 academic year was targeted as the year the first cohort of students covered by the agreement would receive a portion of their support from UC. Before the new budget subvention was signed into law, the source of that support remained in doubt – an uncertainty erased by the influx of funds targeted specifically for the graduate program. Moreover, the combination of new funding and the UC-CONACYT agreement has completely turned the tide on the diminishing number of Mexican doctoral students attending UC, allowing that program to grow to its full potential. The number of master’s students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty members taking sabbaticals at UCs also has increased.

As part of the program, Institute staff work with applicants throughout the process. Mexican students selected and admitted to UC graduate programs receive information and support throughout their doctoral studies, and staff track their progress. The initial admission process selects the top students in Mexico.

Current students continue to perform at the top of their classes, with an average GPA of 3.7. They are highly active academically and many of their papers are published and accepted for presentation at international conferences.

In 2001, UC MEXUS began offering a University Preparation and English Program in Mexico City to help applicants improve TOEFL and GRE scores. The UC Riverside Extension Program coordinates the four-week program, which includes vocabulary, critical reading, academic and research writing skills, TOEFL revision and GRE preparation.

The Institute disseminates information to all Mexican universities and sends staff to CONACYT-organized international recruitment fairs on several Mexican university campuses. The Institute Website also contains information for applicants and their advisers.

Postdoctoral fellows & faculty exchanges

As part of the UC-CONACYT agreement, two vigorous programs emerged to support both teaching and research exchange, and to establish long-term institutional ties among faculty, students and researchers.

In 1998 and 1999, CONACYT alone financed five fellowships a year for post-doctoral and for sabbatical stays at UC and doubled that number in 2000. The new funding allows UC MEXUS to partner equally in both programs. Not only has the number of postdoctoral students doubled to 20 a year, the number of applicants to this and other research programs also have increased. In addition, the two institutions are now able to finance up to 14 one-year sabbaticals for full professors, and faculty visits for one to three quarters. The exchange programs are open to Mexican researchers wanting to work with colleagues at UC and vice versa.

UC MEXUS and CONACYT offered the first round of competition for these programs in the summer and a new call is being offered in October.

Collaborative Grants

The new funds enabled the UC MEXUS -CONACYT Collaborative Grants Program to handle an increase in the number and quality of proposals received. Without it, the Institute could have funded only 17 percent of the proposals received instead of more than 40 percent.

“We would have had a huge number of disappointed researchers,” said Grants Program Officer Dr. Andrea Kaus. “These are seed funds for startup projects and sometimes the proposals lack the polish of those that make it into the top echelon.” Yet many succeed beyond their original objectives.

“I’m constantly amazed at the breadth and diversity of proposals we receive. I would be disappointed if we could support only a handful – not because they lacked quality but because we lacked funds.”

New programs

The augmented budget also allows UC MEXUS – often in partnership with other institutions – to encourage new lines of research on focused topics for academic exchange and policy-related research. Despite its daunting title, the 2001 UC MEXUS-CONACYT Advanced Network Services Applications Special Grants Program explored the potential of Internet2 for enhancing binational academic collaboration and education.

“The projects we’ve been able to support are new, innovative and sometimes virtually sci-fi,” Kaus said. “They would never have come to us – or any agency – had it not been for this grants competition.”

The projects encompass distance education, university-to-university collaborations and manipulation of virtual realities from different physical locations.

Also offered in 2001, the grants program for the Colorado River Delta and Upper Gulf of California allowed UC MEXUS, CONACYT and CICESE to grasp the momentum the binational conference “...to the Sea of CortÚs: nature, water, culture, and livelihood in the Lower Colorado River Basin and Delta” generated. The 2000 conference in Riverside, Calif., was a cooperative effort between UC MEXUS and Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at The University of Arizona.

The grants program not only initiates new lines of binational research intended to inform policy and management decisions in the Delta region, it also encourages development of human resources in the area, i.e., new researchers, students, institutions, and connections to other groups working toward improved water management and policy.

“Water management and quality are key, critical issues for the future around the globe,” Kaus said. “I am dismayed that more of the larger granting agencies are not funding programs specific to water issues.

“Anything that develops scientific research and connections with other organizations on either side of the border will help develop the critical mass of research and researchers necessary to adequately inform not only policy-makers but also the public that relies on these water resources.”

ACCORD FOSTERS SIX PROGRAMS

Six major initiatives have grown out of the agreement between UC and CONACYT.

  • Collaborative Research Programs – provide seed funds for joint projects undertaken by teams of UC and Mexican researchers.
  • Graduate Student Education and Training – provide support to integrate Mexico’s top students into UC graduate programs and support for UC graduate students to conduct independent dissertation research in Mexico as affiliates in Mexican academic and research institutions.
  • Faculty and Research Exchange – support for postdoctoral study, faculty visits, and sabbatical stays for Mexican and UC researchers.
  • Institutional Partnerships – development of long-term ties between UC and Mexican academic departments and research centers at UC and those in Mexico.
  • California-Mexico Commission on Education, Science and Technology – a high-level forum to assist in identifying critical areas that would profit from joint investigation in research or higher education.
  • Casa de California – establishment of a UC office in Mexico to enable the University to enhance its relationship with Mexican universities, government, industry and associations with UC alumni.