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Implementation Completion Report (ICR) Review - Millennium Science Initiative Project

1. Project Data:   
ES Date Posted:
Project Name:
Millennium Science Initiative Project
Project Costs(US $M)
 15  7.81
Loan/Credit (US $M)
 5  4.81
Sector, Major Sect.:
Central government administration, Tertiary education,
Law and justice and public administration; Education
Cofinancing (US $M)
L/C Number:
Board Approval (FY)
Partners involved
Closing Date
06/30/2003 12/31/2004
Prepared by: Reviewed by: Group Manager: Group:  
Helen Abadzi
Ronald S. Parker Alain A. Barbu OEDSG

2. Project Objectives and Components:

a. Objectives
The objective of this Learning and Innovation Loan (LIL) was to demonstrate the effectiveness of transparent, merit-based allocation procedures and investigator autonomy in improving the quality and efficiency of scientific research and training, and thereby demonstrate how to revitalize Venezuela’s Science and Technology (S&T) system. Improved performance was specifically to be expected in (i) quality of the selection process for research projects, (ii) human resources training opportunities, (iii) international collaboration among researchers, (iv) administrative efficiency, (v) allocation of resources, and (vi) scientists' perception of S&T policy in Venezuela.

b. Components
Components were:

(a) Capacity building in the Ministry of S&T (US$1 million at appraisal, US$1.94 million actual) to establish national S&T policies, introduce incentives for formation of high quality researchers, modernize decisionmaking bodies, establish a board of directors to oversee the project, as well as provide technical assistance for the selection of Centers of Excellence, evaluation studies, publications, and administrative costs.
(b) Competitive Fund for Scientific Excellence (US$13.5 million at appraisal, US$5.82 million actual) to provide funding for research projects at three Centers of Excellence (CE) and 8-12 Nuclei for Excellent Research for activities such as (i) scientific research; (ii) expansion of master, doctoral, and post-doctoral training programs; (iii) networking, outreach and special activities to promote scientific excellence, high-level scientific equipment, infrastructure rehabilitation (including laboratories), fellowships for doctoral and post-doctoral students and publications. A Network for the Promotion of Scientific Excellence would include: (i) research visits to establish formal and informal connections to high level international institutions; (ii) coordination of appropriate activities with Directors of CE, NER and principal investigators; (iii) programs for exchange of researchers, post-graduate, and graduate students; (iv) design and delivery of international advanced courses; and (v) dissemination of lessons learned. This component would finance remuneration for researchers, fellowships for master and doctoral students, travel expenditures, and publications.

c. Comments on Project Cost, Financing and Dates
In 2003, the loan cost sharing was changed from 70/30 (Borrower/Bank) to 30/70 to address a shortfall in counterpart funding stemming from the fiscal and political crisis in 2001-2003. After extensions totaling 18 months, the loan closed on December 21, 2004, and US$0.19 million were canceled.

3. Achievement of Relevant Objectives:

Overall, the objective was fully achieved. The project helped consolidate the operations of the S&T Ministry by providing funding for policy studies and key equipment. It introduced comprehensive research grants based on competitive procedures with clear eligibility and selection criteria. Rather than award small grants in different lines to individual researchers, the project awarded large multi-purpose grants to research teams. With the resources and stability that came with research grants, research centers were successful in upgrading the educational level of researchers and taking on additional graduate students. Six research networks were created during project implementation, and existing networks were strengthened; the number of researchers per network increased from an average of 4 researchers in 1999 to 38 researchers in 2004. As a result of project activities, the average age of researchers in supported centers fell from 46 to 41 years between 1999 and 2004. The project raised the proportion of researchers with a Ph.D. from 44 to 50 percent and lowered the number of researchers who only had a bachelor’s degree from 24 to 2 percent in the same period. Also, the number of researchers involved in supporting graduate training and thesis work increased from 26 percent in 1999 to 34 percent in 2004. Nuclei for excellence in research focused on national problems and included a viral biology lab, treatment of industrial and urban waste, an agroecological experimental station, river management, biomedicine, research and control of tropical diseases. Research grants were given on the basis of a peer-reviewed process, and researchers were expected to provide regular updates on their activities. The number of publications in refereed journals written by researchers of the supported centers increased from 73 in 2000 to 99 in 2004, while the number of international visits by researchers for presentations increased from 3 in 2000 to 39 in 2004. Resources mobilized for programs in the nuclei increased from US$1,1731 in 2000 to US$222,134 in 2004.

4. Significant Outcomes/Impacts:

The project demonstrated that it is possible to strengthen Venezuela’s science base by enhancing inter-team/center/nuclei research collaboration. Notably, the project provided evidence that formal and informal networks of researchers and their students have the potential of improving the quality of research, reducing the isolation of researchers outside the capital area, and providing for mentoring opportunities for master’s and Ph.D. students. An opinion survey of the researchers showed positive opinions regarding outcome and sustainability.

5. Significant Shortcomings (include non-compliance with safeguard features):

The project was implemented at a time of financial crisis, which reduced the scope of its activities and the financial ability of the government to participate. Also, there was overlap and a lack of clarity in the roles of the various administrative bodies related to grant awards and monitoring.

6. Ratings:ICROED ReviewReason for Disagreement/Comments
Institutional Dev.:
Bank Performance:
Borrower Perf.:
Quality of ICR:

7. Lessons of Broad Applicablity:

-Developing countries are often faced with a shortage of university graduates willing to start a career in sciences
and many existing researchers may not have adequate qualifications. Coordinated grant award mechanisms based on clear criteria can support teams of researchers who can develop into nuclei of excellence and nurture future researchers.
-Research excellence and relevance can go hand in hand. Using research to improve the status of national priorities helps advance general scientific knowledge while solving poverty-oriented problems. Independence of researchers coupled with accountability may be key in obtaining relevant and useful research results.

8. Audit Recommended?  No


9. Comments on Quality of ICR:

The ICR is satisfactory and describes project events in considerable detail. It would have been useful if it had included more information on opinions of beneficiaries but also of academics who did not receive support from the project.

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