Through LASER, USAID seeks to leverage and support international university networks, inclusive of universities from both the United States (U.S) and lower-middle income countries (LMIC), to improve development research opportunities, evidence generation, and uptake by development actors and policy makers.
part of the Cooperative Agreement, USAID will support a recipient to identify new research questions, fund research activities, translate research results into development impact, and build capacity of local higher education institutions and researchers.
USAID seeks to support a recipient with a defined plan to achieve these goals, with the specific details and workplan proposed by the recipient, in consultation with USAID.
USAID specifically seeks to support an implementing partner whose workplan includes the creation, engagement, and/or growth of a large, international network of university researchers, centers, and institutes across disciplines that can 1) independently identify and address new and impactful research questions with high relevance to the international development community AND 2) partner with USAID Missions, Bureaus, and Independent Offices (M/B/IOs) to address unique research needs identified by USAID.
Additionally, USAID seeks to increase the human and institutional capacity of LMIC HEIs through LASER.
This will occur as they engage in collaborative research opportunities with U. S. researchers and receive technical assistance in research translation through the implementing HEI.
Through the LASER-implementing HEI and its network, USAID will engage local stakeholders to identify and refine critical development research questions and conduct research projects that address those questions.
This is to ensure that the entire research system - from universities to policy-makers and civil society - will become engaged, capacitated contributors to the success of the research project.
The resulting LASER network will not only generate new knowledge for USAID, but also leave behind a sustainable union of collaborating U. S. and developing country institutions.
These collaborations will be characterized by equitable university partnerships, improved academic focus on development challenges, and stakeholders that are better equipped to use research to further their development outcomes.
The project will be linked to, and coordinate with, its sister project, the Research Technical Assistance Center (RTAC) (see Section 2:
Background for description of RTAC).
These projects will both contribute to USAID’s Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN), a university-based programming portfolio which seeks to improve USAID’s partnerships with universities as thought partners in solving today’s greatest development challenges.
LASER and RTAC address a clear need for increased collaboration between USAID and the international university community.
LASER and RTAC allow for rapid access to scientific advisement, world-class evidence generation, joint ownership of and commitment to research, and effective translation of research results into actionable policy or program recommendations.
LASER will meet this need through timely facilitation of USAID research partnerships with researchers that have deep technical and/or geographic expertise in areas relevant to the development research need.
Additionally, LASER partnerships will be characterized by participatory engagement between USAID, local stakeholders, and the international research community.
Ultimately, a successful LASER program fulfills CDR’s Science Objective:
Increase the use of scientific research for improved development outcomes, by creating a network of universities and researchers with increased understanding of USAID and expertise in solving development challenges.