Swedish Research Links grants 2017

On 7 December 2017, the Swedish Research Council decided upon the 2017 Swedish Research Links grants. Introduced by Sida and the Swedish Research Council in 2002, Swedish Research Links aim to stimulate cooperation between researchers in Sweden and those in selected developing countries. From 2013, The Swedish Research Council has taken over the responsibility for all Swedish development research. 
The long-term aim of the programme is to contribute to mutual scientific and socioeconomic development of the countries involved through funding for support to collaborative research projects of high scientific quality and mutual relevance. The programme is open to researchers in basic and applied research within all academic disciplines. 
Nine of the applications given grants for the three-years period 2018–20 are fully or partly related to South Asia. Three projects are with Uppsala University, two with University of Gorhenburg, and one each with Karolinska Institutet; Luleå University of Technology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala; and Umeå University.

South Asia related projects given 2017 Swedish Research Links grants:

University of Gothenburg

Department of Public Health and Community Medicine
   Professor Kristina Jakobsson: Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for Epidemiological research. Case studies with focus on Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown etiology (India, Sri Lanka, Nicaragua). SEK 1.05 m
    Project abstract: The overarching aim is to establish the use of GIS as a tool for description and analysis of existing health data and environmental data, in order to provide decision-makers within authorities and health-care system with relevant information for prevention of non-communicable diseases. The specific aims are to build theoretic capacity within GIS and health analysis in order to “stand on a common ground”; carry out case studies with focus on chronic kidney disease (CKD) and CKD of unknown origin (CKDu) in the three different partner countries in order to refine methodology and produce initial results, to compare results from different regions, analyzing potential similarities in explanatory variables and time/space patterns; and finally to elaborate a core protocol for GIS as a tool for description and analysis of existing health data and environmental data, to be added to the Disadvantaged populations eGFR Epidemiology Study (DEGREE) tool-box (Caplin et al 2016).

 School of Global Studies
   Senior Lecturer Per KnutssonResearch Collaboration and Network Construction: Dissemination of Antibiotic Resistance through Marine Aquaculture in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa  (India, Kenya, Tanzania). SEK 975 000
    Project abstract: To be added...

Karolinska Institutet

Global health (IHCAR)/Department of Public Health Sciences (PHS)
   Dr. Salla Atkins: Migration as a social determination of health (India, Ukraine). SEK 765 00
    Project abstract: To be added...
Atkins is a social scientist, with a background in psychological research and a PhD from Karolinska Institutet. She is currently a postdoctoral scientist at Karolinska Institutet, coordinating two EU funded projects on health research capacity building in Africa and Asia (www.arcade-project.org). 

Luleå University of Technology

Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering (SRT)
   Associate Senior Lecturer Anshyuman Bhardwai: Sustainable Water Supply through the Development of Artificial Glaciers (SWASDAG) (India)
1.170 m
    Project abstract: This is a collaborative effort from Swedish and Indian researchers to aid to the water security for the high-mountain communities of cold arid desert of Ladakh district in India. The main objective of SWASDAG is to complement the ongoing water management efforts through installation of artificial glaciers by the Ice Stupa team (http://icestupa.org/about) of Rolex laureate Sonam Wangchuk. The artificial glaciers or ice cones derive water throughout the winter months from the natural glaciers at higher altitudes and are placed at such an elevation that they melt and provide water to the farmers and population in the completely dry spring months. This approach provides longevity to the farming and growing season and apart from ensuring year-round water security, also guarantees food security and poverty alleviation. However, the ongoing efforts are facing challenges in terms of collaborations, funding, technological support, and continuous prototype improvements to ensure a better spatio-temporal coverage with the goal of providing sustainable water security to entire Ladakh region. The number of functional artificial glaciers is still very limited and a large fraction of population of Ladakh is still fighting with grave water scarcity. Identification of more suitable sites based on terrain, meteorology, and pollution levels to install these structures is a prime challenge. Another challenge is to study snow physical characteristics in the seasonal temperature and humidity conditions in Ladakh and to find engineering solutions for making the artificial glaciers sustain longer and thus prolong the farming season and crop productivity.
    Collaboration partners: At SRT: Anshuman Bhardwaj + Prof. Javier Martin-Torres, and Prof. Maria-Paz Zorzano. From the Department of Engineering Sciences and Mathematics at Luleå University of Technology: Associate Professor Johan Casselgren. In India: Prof. Al. Ramanathan From Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala

Department or Urban and Rural Development
   Professor Adam Pain: Change Processes of Forests and Agriculture, Practices of Small-scale Farmers and New Forms of Land Management: The Establishment of a Research Collaboration between Brazil, Peru and Nepal. 1.170 m
    Project abstract: Questions of governance and access to resources have become even more important with new and emerging forms of land control in the global South. These have implications for smallholder livelihoods and forest futures. The analytical approaches used to deal with the processes of deforestation and agricultural changes, i.e. forest and agrarian transition models, are ill equipped to explain the complex interaction of forest conservation initiatives and local smallholding practices. There is a need to better understand the way new forms of land governance, such as REDD+, unfold locally and what effects they have on smallholders’ lifeworlds. An interdisciplinary team of researchers from SLU (Sweden), Nepal, and Brazil are working on these issues through country specific cases and cross-country comparisons. This project intends to strengthen the ongoing collaboration and also draw in Peruvian colleagues to deepen the comparative analysis. The collaboration among the researchers is expected to provide a solid ground for contextually informed relational analysis, producing high quality scientific outputs and cutting edge questions for future research. The proposed activities include analytical workshops, joint field work, stakeholder workshops and seminars in three countries, and will provide more space for networking and collaboration. We also plan to develop further research applications and lay groundwork for writing a book.
  Collaboration partners: At SLU: The PECA research group. In Nepal: Forest Action in Kathmandu. In South America the organisations EMBRAPA Belem in Brazil, and Waman Wasi in Lamas, Peru. 

Umeå University

Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine
    Associate Professor Isabel Golcolea: Strengthening youth resilience and mental health in North India. 1.2 m
    Project abstract: Mental illness is contributed to by adversity yet psycho-social assets in young people can be strengthened to moderate the impacts of adversity. This projects’ overall purpose is to adapt and implement an intervention to strengthen resilience and mental health for disadvantaged young people in urban North India using theory driven evaluation to guide the process. In 2016 this team evaluated an intervention to build youth resilience as promising. We believe it can become more acceptable, effective, and sustainable by adding components that address family environments and the different needs of young men. The collaboration will facilitate a long-term partnership. The EHA team in India will contribute expertise in implementing community mental health programmes while members from Umeå and Melbourne will contribute their expertise in theory-driven evaluation. The collaboration will be supported by joint field work, workshops and study visits.

Uppsala University

Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacognosy
   Assistant Professor Sunithi Gunesekera & Dr. Paco Cardenas: Biodiversity and Chemodiversity at Sri Lankan Marine Sponges. An opportunity to explore new pharmacological applications. 1.170 m
   Project abstract: Sponges (phylum Porifera) are unquestionably the most promising source of new marine compounds and yet, they are quite often neglected in the field of natural products research because of the extreme difficulty to identify the species. For this reason research on sponges is currently undeveloped in Sri Lanka. The 3-year collaborative project we propose to build between scientists at University of Colombo and Uppsala University will investigate the marine sponge biodiversity of Sri Lanka and identify bioactive sponge natural products against infectious diseases and cancer cell lines. The aims of this project are to 1) transfer our knowledge on sponge sytematics to Sri Lankan students/researchers in order to help them assess the Sri Lankan sponge biodiversity and 2) develop a protocol to study sponge natural product and genetic diversity. We believe both of these aims will unlock the potential of Sri Lankan sponges towards bioactivity assays and drug discovery. To achieve this we will conduct a multidisciplinary collaborative project combining our mutual expertise in pharmacognosy, chemistry, structure elucidation, systematics and molecular biology. This project will fill the knowledge gap on Sri Lankan sponge biodiversity in order to spur high-standard sponge research in this country. The findings will contribute to Sri Lankan education, marine biodiversity conservation and economic development but also to the Swedish/Sri Lankan drug discovery program.
   Collaboration partners: Professor Chamari Hettiarachchi, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Department of Physics and Astronomy, Materials Theory
Sanyal Biplab: Mechanisms for charge transfer dynamics in green energy materials (India) 1.125 m
    Project abstract: In the modern world, the increasing demand of energy with increasing population and industrial growth has become a great concern. Although there is a vast resource of oil, natural gas and coal available on earth, their eco-friendly extraction and use often becomes problematic due to uncontrolled environmental pollution. At the same time, an alternative huge resource of energy is provided by sun, which can meet all the demands of today’s society. However, the fundamental challenge is to develop methods to harvest solar energy in an efficient way. This leads to the exploration of photovoltaic and photocatalytic materials in developing solar cells, where the charge transfer processes through different complex pathways plays a fundamental role. It is extremely important to know the dynamics of these processes to develop better materials and suitable conditions for efficient conversion of solar energy to electrical and chemical energies. The understanding should emerge from a fundamental level where the dynamics of electrons and ions are describable by quantum mechanics.
This project aims to develop a theoretical method to study the dynamics of charge carriers along different pathways involved in chemical processes. This method will be based on time dependent density functional theory and non-adiabatic molecular dynamics where electronic and ionic motions are strongly coupled. Density functional theory, for which Walter Kohn has been awarded Nobel prize in 1998, has been proved to be an extremely powerful method applied to several problems in physics, chemistry and biology. The researchers will apply their developed method to study the charge transfer processes through the organic/inorganic interfaces, e.g., organometallics on TiO2 surfaces. Also, to explore novel 2D materials, e.g., graphene and MoS2 for the suitability of solar cell applications. Graphene has been awarded Nobel prize in 2010 for its extraordinary properties. It will be studied whether a combination of metallic graphene and semiconducting MoS2 can obstruct the recombination of electron and hole, which is required for efficient solar energy conversion. The outcome of this project will be highly beneficial for the fundamental understanding of charge transfer processes in many important technological applications and will help for better utilization of solar energy for future society.
   Collaboration partner:  Dr. Bhalchandra Pujari, Savitribai Phule Pune University

Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Microbiology
   Associate Professor Olle Terenius: Viral Infections in Silkmoths (India) 1.02 m
    Project abstract: The largest number of insect species described as affected by viruses is found in Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies). Among the commercially important species heavily affected by virus infections is the tasar silkmoth, Antheraea mylitta, which is yearly harvested in India by thousands of tons. Therefore, the aim of this project is to analyze the tasar silkmoth anti-viral defense in general exploring signal pathways and proteins active in the response. Candidate genes will be analyzed with knockdown using RNA interference (RNAi). We also want to compare a newly described iflavirus found in the Chinese oak silkmoth, ApIV with a similar virus in A. mylitta. Wealth in India is unevenly distributed and the farmers engaged in silkworm production (sericulture) are typically poor. The annual income from sericulture is about 1000 US dollars for a sericulture farmer, accounting for 60% of the total revenue. Virus infections are abundant, normally ending up in losses of about 10-20%, but sometimes as much as 80%, having major implications on family income for these poor farmers who are dependent on the harvest of pupae. We will in this project merge the knowledge from three countries in Asia with long experience in silkmoth practice (China, India and Thailand) with knowledge on viruses and RNAi in Sweden in order to find ways to mitigate the effects of virus infections in silkmoths.
 Collaboration partner: Dr. K. M. Ponnuvel, Seribiotech Research Laboratory, Central Silk Board, Government of India, Kodathi, Bangalore.