Swedish Research Council grants to South Asia related projects 2007

• Swedish Research Links 2007

• Project grants for research within Humanities and Social Sciences 2007

• Project grants for research within Medicine 2007

Swedish Research Links 2007

The sixth round of the so-called Swedish Research Links (Asian–Swedish research partnership programme) – grants by Sida and the Swedish Research Council – were decided upon on Tuesday 30 October 2007. The following South Asia related project applications for Swedish Research Links (Asian–Swedish research partnership programme) were given grants for the three-years period 2008–10 (or part thereof).

Göteborg University

• Jens Allwood, Department of Linguistics
Project name: Documenting and revitalising Lohorung, an endangered language in Nepal
Project grant for 2008: SEK 75 000

Abstract: This project concerns Lohorung which is a minority Sino-Tibetan language on the verge of extinction. It is spoken in eastern Nepal by the Lohorung Rai people. Being a severely endangered language, Lohorung needs to be documented. The documentation to be done now is not meant only for preservation (in archives) but also for revitalization and development. However, a precondition of such a development, is that there needs to be a documentation project as soon as possible
The project therefore has the following specific objectives:

  • To develop a corpus for the Lohorung language based on some main social activities
  • To carry out linguistic and cultural studies on the basis of the corpus and to develop linguistic and cultural resources such as a lexicon, a sketch grammar, a cultural and ethnographic profile etc.
  • To develop an orthography and educational materials using spoken language and graphics

The project is envisaged to have a duration of three years tentatively – one year for data collection, one year for analysis and for producing linguistic materials and one year for preparing spoken, graphical and written educational materials.
We are currently applying for a planning grant in order to prepare a more detailed application and plan of work, as well as for writing an overview, providing a feasibility study of the tasks proposed in the project.

Karolinska Institutet Medical University

• Maigun Edhborg, Division of Nursing, Department of Neurobiology, Caring Sciences and Society
Project name: Impact of maternal perinatal depressive symptoms on infant development and health in Bangladesh
Project grant: SEK 450 000

Abstract: This prospective cohort study will be carried out in collaboration with BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) and BRAC University in Bangladesh, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. The aim is to describe the prevalence and the women’s experiences of depressive symptoms and anxiety around childbirth in rural Bangladesh, as well as its impact on birth outcomes, mother-infant interactions, and on the infant’s health, growth and development. A sample of about 600 women will be interviewed by BRAC  interviewers’ during pregnancy, 2-3 and 6 months postpartum, about personal- and social data, depressive mood, anxiety, attachment to the mother’s own parents and to the infant. Data about pregnancy and infant outcomes will be taken from the health workers files. The infant will be assessed on physical and mental development 2-3 and 6 months postpartum. During pregnancy and 2-3 months postpartum, some women with signs of depression and/or anxiety will be interviewed in-depth about their experiences and adaptation to motherhood and the infant. As BRAC have access to community health worker throughout the Bangladesh, it might be possible to implement an early detection and treatment for depressive symptoms and anxiety in maternal and child health programmes. Several studies have shown that maternal depressive/anxiety symptoms have negative impact on the mother-infant relationship and subsequent negative development, in low-income countries both on the physical and mental development. Thus, it is important to detect depression/anxiety early and give treatment to the mothers’, to prevent the infant from negative impact on health, growth and development.

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

• Mats Berg, Division of Railway Technology, KTH Department of Aeronautical and Vehicle Engineering
Project name: Assessment of environmental noise impact in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Project grant for 2008-10: SEK 600 000

Abstract: Long term exposure to environmental noise can adversely affect sleep, school and work performance, and cardiovascular (heart) disease. The health impacts of environmental noise depend on the intensity of noise, on the duration of exposure, and the context of exposure. Noise pollution is continuously growing, accompanied by an increasing number of complaints from affected individuals. Most people are typically exposed to several noise sources, with traffic noise being a dominant source. Population growth, urbanization and to a large extent technological development are the main causes and future enlargements of highway systems, railway systems and international airports will only increase the noise problem. One of the most common adverse effects of noise in our daily lives is the annoyance. The effect of noise on annoyance can be evaluated by questionnaires or by assessing the disturbance of specific activities. However, it should be recognized that equal levels of different traffic and industrial noises cause different magnitudes of annoyance. This is because annoyance in populations varies not only with the characteristics of the noise, including the noise source, but also depends to a large degree on many non-acoustical factors of a social, psychological, or economic nature. In most cases, LAeq and Ldn are measured for 24 hours for an acceptable approximation of noise exposure related to annoyance. However, there is growing concern that all the component parameters should be individually assessed in noise exposure investigations, at least in the complex cases. There is no consensus on a representative model for total annoyance due to a combination of environmental noise sources. In Bangladesh, there are no authentic statistical data on the effects of community noise on hearing impairment or annoyance. Governments have insufficient resources where a vast population is contended with high illiteracy rates; consequently, priorities are given for fighting hunger, malnutrition, diseases and various man-made and natural calamities. The governments are thus unable to give the necessary attention towards the prevention, early detection and management of noise pollution in the country. It is therefore necessary for the Asian partner to have cooperation with a skilled international research institution like KTH. The purposes of the present project are to bring awareness to the adverse effects of noise & vibration as well as exchange ideas, skills and knowledge at the institutional level where the research and lectures could be performed. In addition, support future noise policies and regulations, counter measures on various types of vehicles, traffic infrastructures and housings.

• Mannan Mridha, Department of Applied Information Technology (2IT), KTH School of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Campus IT University in Kista
Project name: Development of simple, practical and cost-effective drinking water treatment device using solar energy after filtration with sari cloth in Bangladesh
Project grant for 2008-10: SEK 450 000

Abstract: Health effects from the contaminated drinking water is severe in many parts of the world. The surface water as well as the ground water from many sources, contain biological and chemical contaminants. Simple, effective and affordable water treatment technology for household use in the rural areas in the developing countries is lacking. Most of the developing countries have plenty of sunshine and a lot of surface water and rain water. This study aims to develop a simple, robust and cost-effective system for safe drinking water from surface water and rain water using direct solar energy. Such system would be appropriate for application in the developing countries where ground water is arsenic contaminated and electricity and fuel are scarce and expensive. The work will be conducted in the following phases: A) Experimental phase: We will conduct experiments to determine the exposure time varying the intensity of to determine and demonstrate the destructive effect of sunlight on pathogenic and non-pathogenic organisms. Turbidity due to suspended particulate matter would hinder to some extent the penetration of sunlight depending on the degree of turbidity. Besides, the suspended particles would protect any micro-organisms adhering to their surfaces. Therefore, four to eight folded sari cloth will be used to filter the water to study the improvement in turbidity by measuring the light absorbance applying optical sensors. This prefiltered water will be exposed to solar treatment. B) Design and development phase: Theoretical calculations and experimental investigations will be conducted to improve the efficiency by using the heat exchangers. We will develop design criteria pertaining to transparency, colour, shape, and size of containers, availability and cost and dimensions for systems to provide water for a family use and for use at schools in the villages in Bangladesh. Test will also be conducted with materials such as tin that are already in use and locally available. sunlight for most of the day, or at least for the duration of the exposure. Wherever possible, preference should be given to locally produced containers as they are likely to be cheaper and more widely available. Development of measurement and control system applying suitable solar sensors to deliver safe water. C) Implementation phase: A prototype will be developed and installed. Having developed the appropriate prototype with the right kind of material and size, with the intelligent and reliable electronics, the devices will be installed at some rural houses and village schools. Instructions on maintenance protocols, regular cleaning will be provided in local languages and by the local instructors. D) Evaluation phase: A holistic approach to drinking-water supply risk assessment and risk management will be applied to increases confidence in the safety of drinking-water system. Evaluation will identify the ways in which these risks can be managed, including methods to ensure that control measures. The following aspects are to be evaluated and kept in mind already from the design phase. - Economically attractive compared with the price of bottled water in the market. The price should include storage tanks, prefilter, container, sensors and other components. installation cost, maintenance and operating cost and operating life. - Technically simple, robust and reliable and easy to maintain and operate - Social acceptance through creation of awareness on the benefit and risk of using such systems The project will lead to the development of optimum design and selection of appropriate material for the low cost solar device for water treatment. It will improve efficiency of the solar devices for water treatment for household use. The device will provide on-site water treatment utilizing the locally available materials, resources and skill and have potential for local manufacturing. The most vulnerable and disadvantaged group, women and children will have possibilities to get access to clean drinking water and this will reduce diseases and improve their quality of lives to meet the Millennium Development Goals. It is hoped that through the success of the project, the technology will be replicated in other regions currently facing similar conditions.

Lund University

• Neelambar Hatti, Dept. of Economic History
Project name: Undesired daughters: The paradox of modern India
Project grant for 2008-09: SEK 300 000

Abstract: De senaste decennierna har Indien gjort betydande social och ekonomiska framsteg och ännu större framgångar förutspås. Ändå har Indienn fått den tvivelaktiga stämpåeln som landet där man i ökande grad utnyttjar modern reproducktive technologi för att säkerställa att flickor aldrig föds. Detta har inneburit att kvoten mellan antalet kvinnor och antalet män, sex ratio, starkt försämrats till kvinnornas nackdel. Den senaste tidens dramatiska minskning av andelen flickor, framförallt avseende barn i åldergruppen 0-6, är ett alarmerande bevis på den prekära situationen just nu och pekar på flickornas utsatta situation i samhället. Teknologin som fastställer fostrets kön är idag allmänt tillgänglig och aborter av flickfoster förekommer i princip i hela landet, trots det är olagligt. Antagandet att utbildning oc förvärvsarbete för kvinnor skulle leda till att de kan framhäva sina rättigheter rörande reproduktivitet tycks inte stämma. Paradoxolt nog är det framförallt högt urbaniserade storstäderna en alrmerande trend i abort av flickfoster. Syftet med projektet är att studera sambandet mellan denna negativa trend och ökande välfärd i två av Indiens högst urbaniserade och moderna städer, nämligen Delhi i norr och Bangalore i söder. Denna moderniserings paradox kan illustreras av en analys av sambanden mellan trenden i ´sex ratio´ och ekonomiska förändringar, samt en analys av kvalitativa intervjuer som underlättar förståenlsen av den social kontexten.

• Bo Mattiasson, Dept. of Biotechnology
Project name: Anaerobic, thermophilic microorganisms – new biocatalysts for sustainable use of natural resources
Project grant for 2008: SEK 75 000

Abstract: Exploration of pristine and extreme habitats for themophilic anaerobes and their enzymes for industrial applications: Enzymes will become increasingly important when biocatalysis becomes an integrated part of process technology, in the production of chemicals from renewable resources or for the generation of bioenergy. The partners behind this application who are now asking for a planning grant intend to investigate earlier unknown ecological niches for the presence of thermophilic anaerobic microorganisms. One can expect that such organisms will produce thermostable enzymes which could be of greater practical value for future enzyme technology. The planning phase will contain a few meetings, at least one at each site of the collaborators. Besides, also administrative work to get permission for sampling for the isolation and characterization of new organisms will take place. During this phase it will be discussed and decided on which biocatalytic processes that should be prioritized and also which technology to be used. One can either isolate the organism and thereafter study its properties, or one can extract DNA and search for suitable genes which later on will be isolated and cloned into suitable host organisms.

Uppsala University

• Rajeev Ahuja, Department of Physics
Project name: Light metal hydrides as Hydrogen Storage Materials for Environmental Friendly Applications
Indian partner: Prof. O.N.Srivastava, Physics Department, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
Project grant: SEK 450 000

Abstract: Our energy-hungry world has become increasingly depending on new methods to store and convert energy for new, environmentally friendly modes of transportation and electrical energy generation as well as for portable electronics . Mobility – the transport of people and goods – is a socioeconomic reality that will surely increase in the coming years. It should be safe, economic and reasonably clean. Hydrogen would be ideal as a synthetic fuel because it is lightweight, highly abundant and its oxidation product (water) is environmentally benign. However, the storage remains a problem for this highly desirable development. Here we present a proposal where we focus on the search for innovative materials with high hydrogen-storage capacity. We propose to perform theoretical and experimental studies of such materials, with the purpose toidentify and improve the most important materials parameters. From the gained knowledge, we will invent materials which will enable improved devices and constructions. Hence we propose to focus new activities in the study of materials of significance in energy applications. This type of research have national importance for any country and they address two of the critical issues for a new hydrogen economy.

• Vernon Cooray, Division for Electricity and Lightning Research
Project name for 2008-10: A collaborative research and education program between Sweden, India and Sri Lanka on the effects of tropical lightning flashes on power and telecommunication systems
Project grant: SEK 450 000

Abstract: An industrial country such as Germany spends several million Euros each year on damages caused by lightning flashes. This information when combined with the fact that most of the global lightning activity takes place in the tropics provides insights as to the extent of lightning related problems that a developing nation located in the tropics has to experience. In the tropics lightning is the main source of disturbances in power, telecommunication and computer networks. This pollution of power and telecommunication systems by lightning is a major hindrance to the establishment of advanced industrial processes in developing countries located in the tropical belt. This is the case since power quality goes hand in hand with the quality of industrial products and the cost of production. There is a strong need today to study the influence of tropical lightning environment on the power and telecommunication systems and come up with procedures to mitigate these effects. During lightning strikes, depending upon the intensity or energy associated with the strokes, those equipments responsible for the normal operations suffer damage. The damage could be either critical (wherein the equipment is destroyed and needs replacement) or temporary (wherein the equipment owing to its robustness retains strength again for normal operation). However, the result is loss of equipment, interruption time delays and associated costs. To overcome the above problem, an appropriate lightning protection for the power and telecommunication equipments have to be envisaged. For this, first a better understanding of the lightning source (physics of lightning and its occurrences) and lightning electromagnetic environment (evaluation and characterisation of lightning currents, electric and magnetic fields due to lightning strikes) are to be known. By knowing the source systematic and realistic theoretical modelling and testing can be carried out with equipments of power and telecommunication systems. By doing so, the failure modes, of those equipments will be well understood and at the same time gives us the key to effective lightning protection. Typical lightning protection design involves the use of lightning interception systems, ground systems, insulators, surge protective devices, etc., and the effectiveness of these devices should be complimented by experiments and theoretical modelling. These devices primarily has two important tasks, first to stop the lightning transients (currents or voltages) entering the equipments and secondly to divert those transients safely to the ground where it is dissipated. The study therefore involves investigations and understanding on two main subjects’ namely lightning physics and effects and also on lightning protection. The aim of this project is to establish a joint research and educational program, between lightning research group at Uppsala University (UU) and scientists from three Asian educational institutes, namely, University of Colombo (UC), Sri Lanka, University of Peradeniya (UP), Sri Lanka and Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, India, specializing in lightning and electrical transients in tropical environments to facilitate postgraduate education and strengthen the research activities related to the lightning and its effects, with power and telecommunication systems as the target. Note that the latter two countries are located in the tropical regions with high thunderstorm activity and this gives us an excellent opportunity to carry out all the required field measurements with real lightning strikes. Also both UU and IISc have excellent high voltage laboratory facilities for testing of equipments and protection devices using lightning voltage and current sources representative of real lightning.

• Suparna Sanyal, Department of Cell & Molecular Biology
Project name: Ribosome assisted protein folding and its implication in misfolding diseases
Project grant for 2008-10: SEK 450 000

Abstract: Prion diseases are fatal neurodegenerative diseases primarily infecting mammals that can spread easily from one host to another, even to a host of different species. These diseases include Kuru and Creutzfeld-Jacob (CJD) disease in human and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in cow which is commonly known as ‘Mad Cow Disease’. The common feature of all these diseases is the sponge like appearance of brain together with loss of brain-functions such as communication, control, balance, and memory. The infecting agent in these diseases i.e. prions are protein particles that unlike common bacteria and virus can not be destroyed by common means. These proteins naturally exist in a soluble form in all higher organisms, which is its non-infectious state. However, by some unknown mechanism this form transforms to the prion form, which in turn generates amyloid fibrils in brain and causes brain damage. Further, prion seeds are formed from the amyloid fibrils, which can infect another host causing the same fate. The transformation of the normal form of the protein to the prion form involves significant change in the secondary structure backbone of the protein and is therefore identified as a protein folding problem. Similar fibril formation in brain is associated with some other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Recently we, in collaboration with a French research group (Marc Blondel-PI), have identified two compounds which are effective against yeast- as well as mammalian- prions. Interestingly, these drugs are already in use for the treatment of psychiatric problems and malaria. Further, in the process to check how these drugs work, we have identified ‘ribosome’ as their molecular target. The ribosome is a cell-organelle, present in all living cells and its main function is to synthesize proteins by joining amino acids in a chain. The ribosome has a large and a small subunit and is composed of ribosomal RNAs and ribosomal proteins. The antiprion drugs bind specifically to the ribosomal RNA but do not inhibit the process of protein synthesis. This observation prompts us to think whether ribosome has any additional function in the cell other than protein synthesis and if that function is related to the propagation of prion-diseases.
RibosomeThe protein chains synthesized on the ribosome needs to fold to a compact conformation to attain its functional state. In addition to common protein-folding chaperones, the ribosome can also refold protein chains in vitro. This activity of the ribosome was first demonstrated by Chanchal DasGupta’s laboratory in Calcutta University, India. In last 15 years DasGupta group has developed their unique research in this area and showed that the ribosomal RNA of the large subunit is responsible for the protein folding activity of the ribosome, like in case of its protein synthesis activity. To our surprise, the antiprion compounds inhibited ribosome assisted protein folding completely. This observation linked the protein folding activity of the ribosome to the prion diseases.

In this project, we will explore in collaboration with DasGupta group in India the significance of the protein folding activity of the ribosome in the modern cells. The main aim is to understand the role of the ribosome in folding nascent protein chains synthesized on the ribosome. In addition, we will collaborate with Marc Blondel group in France to study what significance the ribosome assisted protein folding has in the propagation of the prion diseases as well as in other similar neurodegenerative diseases. If we can answer these crucial questions, it will help us to design better strategies for prevention and cure of many fatal diseases including prion diseases.

• Anju Saxena, Division for Linguistics and Computer Lingustics (including Language Technology), Department of Linguistics and Philology
Project name: Multimedia and GIS supported language documentation of the Himalayas with the focus on ethno-biological terms
Project grant: SEK 525 000

Abstract: Multimedia and GIS supported language documentation of the Himalayas with the focus on ethno-biological terms The aim of the proposed project is to establish co-operation between Uppsala University and Himachal Pradesh University to work jointly on producing digital documentation of languages of the Himalayan region in the Himachal Pradesh region in India, using modern technology – multimedia tools and GIS (Geographical Information Systems) – with a focus on ethno-biological terms, and to document their role in the socio-cultural life of this region. Just as India exhibits linguistic diversity (South Asia being the third linguistically richest area in the world), it boasts also a high degree of biodiversity (e.g. 6% of all flowering plants species in the world). The Threatened plants unit (TPU) of the WCMC has classified Western Himalaya as one of the five threatened areas in India. This is also a region where linguistic diversity is apparently very high, but very little information is available. Factors such as modern media, education policies, construction of major hydro-electrical plants, tourist industry, and general tendencies for globalization are distabilizing traditional lifestyle(s) of the indigenous communities of this area. This is apparent in the younger generation’s decreasing familiarity with local ethnobiological terms, their usages, and their role in the community. There is an urgent need to document traditional knowledge (including language) of these indigenous communities. This is the main goal of this project. The focus in language documentation in this project will be on ethnobiological terms and their relevance in the socio-cultural life of these communities. Data collection will be in the survey format. Documentation will be done by taking (i) still pictures and Latin terms for each ethno-botanical term; (ii) Video recordings of narratives, socio-cultural activities where ethno-botanical terms have special significance; (iii) An annotated narrative corpus (together with audio and video recording) comprising phonetically transcribed text, morpheme-by-morpheme translation and a free translation into English. If time permits, grammatical sketches of the languages of this region (including observations about their dialectal variation) will be produced, based on the data collected in this project. The ethnolinguistic data collection will be conducted in selected village groups of these regions. The database will then form the basis for (i) language descriptions of these languages (including questions relating to their genetic relationship, languge change and language contact), and (ii) multi-media products – an interactive CD and an interactive language map of this region – the latter using GIS. The results of this project will contribute to (i) providing a systematic database for investigating language situation of this region, (ii) our understanding of the ethno-biological features of this region, (iii) preserving this knowledge (e.g. traditional knowledge in matters of medicine, environment and natural resources) and (iv) evaluating these multimedia tools and GIS in language documentation.


Swedish Research Council Project grants for Research within Humanities and Social Sciences 2007

Decisions by the Swedish Research Council on 17 October 2007

Pernille Gooch• Pernille Gooch, Division of Human Ecology, Department of European Ethnology, Lund University
Project name: Participatory Assessment of Sustainable Scenarios for Himalayan Pastoralism
Grant: SEK 1 428 000 (for the three years period 2008–10)

Project description: Detta är ett samarbetsprojekt mellan forskare i Indien och i Sverige. Bakgrunden för projektet är problemen för de grupper av herdar som vandrar med sina djur på Himalayas sluttningar. De har genom århundraden haft stor betydelse för att upprätthålla den rika biodiversiteten i bergen, speciellt på de områden som ligger över trädgränsen. Under senare år har de dock mera och mera trängds undan av andra brukare av naturresurserna, såsom skogsbruket, jordbruket, turism mm. Då de är nomader är de till stor del osynliggjorde l i utvecklingsprocessen och de har därför ofta glömds bort av forskare. Projektet vill synliggöra herdefolken genom en dynamisk forskningsprocess som använder deltagande metoder för att få fram hållbara framtidsscenarier, dvs att projektet genom dialog inviterar in herdarna och andra intressenter som deltagare i forskningen. De resultat som frambringas kommer sedan att presenteras för myndigheter, politiker och andra intresserade för att skapa bättra framtidsutsikter för herdefolken och och därmed också för de ekologiska system som är avhängiga av att de fortsätter att ha sina djur betande på Himalayas sluttningar. More information (in English).


Anna-Pya SjödinAnna-Pya Sjödin, South Asian Languages and Cultures, Department of Linguistics and Philology, Uppsala University.
Project name: The little girl who knew her brother would be coming home: cognition and knowledge in Nyaya-Vaisesika.
Grant: 3 312 000 SEK (for the four years period 2008–11)

Project description: The purpose of the project is to trace the conceptions of knowledge and cognition in the Nyaya-Vaisesika tradition through analyzing the special forms of knowledge present in its textual history. The project furthermore aims at formulating a vocabulary of the understanding of this analysis and in doing that create a theoretical basis for the transference of an Indian philosophical discourse to a European/American philosophical discourse. The project is conducted in four stages.
In the first and second stage the conceptions of rsijnana and yogipratyaksa in the Vaisesika and Nyayasutra commentarial traditions are analysed and compared. In the third stage the understanding of the general conceptions of knowledge and cognition in Nyaya-Vaisesika are reformulated in respect to the analysis made in the first two stages. In the fourth stage the method of "non-mimetic translation" is brought in as a tool for forming a vocabulary fit for the transference of the discourse but yet not a vocabulary with terms already at hand in the European/American philosophical discourse. The theoretical basis for the method of non-mimetic translation comes from Homi Bhabha’s analysis of colonial discourse but needs to be formulated with respect to the results attained in the project as a whole and with reference to the specific research area of Indology.


Peter WallensteenPeter Wallensteen, Johan Brosché, Kristine Eck and Hanne Fjelde, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University.
Project name: Communal Violence – Causes and Solutions.
Grant: 2 100 000 SEK (for the three years period 2008–10)

Project description: The UN Special envoy for Darfur Mr Jan Eliasson suggested in April 2007 that “[in Darfur] at the moment, a new type of battles are increasing and it is battles between different tribes, even between different Arab tribes who are trying to take control over the land that have been left behind in the war.” Mr Eliasson continued, “battles between the government and the rebels are very limited at the moment and more people are killed in tribal conflicts than in the traditional conflict” (Ekots lördagsintervju, SR P1, 7 April 2007, in Swedish (author’s translation). This observation highlight a topic that so for mainly has been overlooked within the scholarly community of peace and conflict research. The so-called tribal conflicts mentioned by Mr Eliasson are more commonly referred to as communal conflicts, which is the focal point for this project. The study of conflict has traditionally focused on relations between states, or between the states and organized rebel armies. Communal conflicts are often defined as events where “(a) there is violence, and (b) two or more communally identified groups confront each other or members of the other group at some point during the violence” (Varshney 2002, 309.) Examples of recent communal violence can be found in the Democratic Republic of Congo between the Hema and Lendu tribes, Hindu-Muslim riots in India, the sectarian violence in Iraq, and the ongoing clashes between several different tribes in Sudanese Darfur and eastern Chad.
This project aims at providing the first global analysis of the causes and management of communal conflicts. The underlying hypothesis is that communal conflicts can occur as a consequence of changes in social relations, forcing communal groups to interact and compete or cooperate about limited resources of different kinds. The project will explore three main explanatory themes for the outbreak and successful resolution of communal conflicts; (a) competition over subsistence resources, (b) patterns of migration and, (c) the role of political manipulation and the local civil society.


• Isabell Schierenbeck and Ulrika Möller, Department of Political Science, Göteborg University.
Project name: The Road to Democracy: Exploring the Impact of Leadership Guidance.
Grant: 2 400 000 SEK (for the three years period 2008–10) new

Project description: This research-project addresses the problem of democratization through a focus on political leadership. In addition, the project is guided by the presumption that history contains important insights for how democracy can be reached, preserved and enhanced also today. In order to illustrate our point of view, India is a useful example. After almost 60 years as a sovereign state, India is currently described as a “mature democracy”. Considering the intentions among the early political leadership – most notably Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru – when India gained independence (in August 1947), this is only to be expected. However, if one takes into account the Emergency Act, proclaimed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in June 1975, the current democratic quality of the Indian society looks less self-evident. The emergency regime, carried out for over 18 months, involved authoritarian practices such as removal of parliament influence, imprisonment of opposition, press censorship and family-planning through forcible vasectomies. Nevertheless, in January 1977, Prime Minister Gandhi announced that free election should yet again be held, and gradually, the Indian society re-gained democracy. This illustration is useful in the sense that it illuminates that some states (like India) manage to defeat obstacles to democracy, which leads to the question that guides this project: What values and strategies of a political leadership facilitate the road to democracy, and reward their societies with a resilient democracy? 
Literature on political leadership underlines the particular significance of political elites at periods characterized as societal crossroads. In essence, research on political leadership, or, central persons in representational roles, concerns the ability of these leaders to identify the relevant problems, prepare solutions and mobilize public opinion during periods of social and political change. Ideational and institutional research point at the potential to leadership influence in the sense that they can imprint their values and beliefs in institutions. Finally, research of democratization emphasis the importance of the image and institutions of the state as a pre-condition to a robust democracy.
Guided by these theoretical insights, it is suggested that the choices made by the leadership during the shift between nationhood and statehood are of particular significance. In short, the leadership can either re-use images and practices of nationhood to create the state, or, they can make sure that the state is set up on the basis of democracy-promoting features. Moreover, we suggest that the capacity to face future challenges to democracy is contingent on these early choices made by the political leadership.
The aim of this research-project is twofold: 1) to contribute to theoretical knowledge on the role of leadership for democratic resilience and 2) to set out guidelines useful to political leaderships in societies on the road towards democratic governance.

Swedish Research Council Project grants for Research within Medicine 2007

Decisions by the Swedish Research Council on 30 October 2007

• Marie Vahter, Division of Metals & Health, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet Medical University, Stockholm
Project name: Effects of early life arsenic exposure on immune function
Grant: 2 695 000 SEK (for the three years period 2008–10)

Project description: Arsenik är en giftig halvmetall som lätt löses ut från marklagren till vattnet i borrade brunnar. Förhöjda halter arsenik förekommer därför i de flesta länder, inklusive Sverige. Vissa, t ex Bangladesh, östra Indien, delar av Kina, Chile och Argentina, är betydligt mer drabbade än andra. Arsenik är ett starkt cancerframkallande ämne vid långtidsexponering, och kan även ge upphov till diabetes, hjärt-kärleffekter, kronisk hosta, leverpåverkan, hudförändringar mm. Vi vet dock väldigt lite om vid vilka nivåer arseniken skadar foster och små barn, vilka ofta är betydligt känsligare för kemiska ämnens toxiska effekter än vuxna. Eftersom vi vet att arseniken passerar från den gravida kvinnan till fostret, är det viktigt att utreda eventuella negativa effekter. Sådan kunskap är även viktig för förståelsen för hur arseniken kan påverka kroppens många känsliga funktioner och varför vissa är mer känsliga än andra. Vi har därför initierat studier i ett område i Bangladesh med stor variation av halten arsenik i dricksvattnet, för att utreda eventuella effekter av arsenik på foster och barn. Forskningen är påbyggd en klinisk prövning av en tablett innehållande flera vitaminer och mineraler under graviditeten och effekt på fosterutveckling, födelsevikt och barnens utveckling.
Studien genomförs i Matlab, 53 km sydost om Dhaka, under ledning av ICDDR,B, ett internationellt forskningscentrum i Dhaka. Ett antal forskningsprojekt och forskargrupper har knutits till studien med forskare från bl a Uppsala universitet, Karolinska Institutet, Cornell University, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine och London School of Child Health. Ca 4,500 kvinnor har rekryterats i tidig graviditet. Arsenikhalterna i kvinnornas urin varierade från 1 till mer än 1500 µg/L, vilket skall jämföras med bakgrundshalt (hos icke exponerade personer) på ca 5 µg/L. Vår initiala undersökning, som omfattade 29.000 graviditeter i Matlab, tyder på ett samband mellan arseniken i dricksvatten och ökad risk för foster- och spädbarnsdödlighet, fr.a. i infektionssjukdomar. Detta skulle kunna tyda på att arseniken påverkar immunförsvaret. Vår hypotes är att en toxisk påverkan på fostret kan programmera om kroppens styrsystem så att viktiga funktioner som t ex immunförsvaret störs permanent. Vi vill därför undersöka hur och vid vilka doser arseniken påverkar immunförsvaret hos foster och barn.
Dessutom vill vi undersöka om individer, som är sämre på att metabolisera (avgifta) arseniken i kroppen och/eller är undernärda, löper en större risk att drabbas. Vi kommer att studera sambanden mellan olika arsenikformer i urinen under graviditeten (mått på fosterexponering) och hos barnen vid 1,5 och 4,5 års ålder och olika markörer för immunfunktionen i placenta (moderkaka) och navelsträngsblod, liksom sambanden med tymusstorlek under första levnadsåret. Tymus är ett organ med stor betydelse för immunförsvaret under tidig barndom. Våra preliminära resultat på ett mindre antal barn tyder på att arseniken verkligen leder till minskad tymusstorlek (mätt genom ultraljudsundersökning). Likaså tyder våra första analyser på att arseniken ökar olika stressfaktorer i både placenta och foster. Vid 4,5 års ålder kommer barnens immunförsvar att testas genom analys av hur väl de svarar på ett par olika vaccinationer. Vi avser att relatera de svaren även till arsenikexponeringen före födelsen samt barnens egen exponering via dricksvattnet.
Vi undersöker även hur näringsstatus, t ex lågt intag av järn, zink, vitaminer etc. påverkar risken för toxiska effekter. Anledningen är att den stress i cellerna som arseniken ger upphov till kan motverkas av s.k. antioxidanter (vissa vitaminer och mineraler) i kosten. Vi misstänker att näringsbrist är en riskfaktor. Arseniken omvandlas i kroppen från den oorganiska formen till metylerade arsenikföreningar, vilket medför snabbare utsöndring i urinen. Framför allt vill vi studera om individer med dålig förmåga att avgifta och utsöndra arseniken har högre känslighet och risk för skada. Resultaten kommer att få betydelse för bedömningen av risk för skador på foster och barn av arsenik i dricksvatten, samt vilka de viktigaste riskfaktorerna är. Resultaten kommer fr.a. att få betydelse i kommande översyn av gränsvärden föra arsenik i dricksvatten. Om de preliminära resultaten håller och vi kan belägga effekter på barns hälsa, hoppas vi att de kommer att påskynda åtgärder fr.a. för de mest känsliga befolkningsgrupperna i drabbade områden.