UAE rain research programme calls for scientists from other fields to contribute

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Water scarcity may be solved by rain enhancement technology, but not before scientists from unrelated fields contribute to the research, meteorologists say.

The announcement came as meteorologists spoke at New York University Abu Dhabi on Wednesday to encourage researchers from many disciplines to submit proposals for the second round of awards for the UAE Research Project for Rain Enhancement Science.

The project will grant three proposals a total of US$5 million (Dh18.4m) in research funding, with submissions due on March 17. The idea is to encourage scientists and engineers outside the realm of rain enhancement technology – regarded as an answer to water scarcity – to get involved in the latest awards cycle, said Omar Al Yazeedi, director of research, development and training at the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology.

“We would like to send the message that this science would like to hear from other students and other scientists around the world, not only, for example, the big players or those just focusing on rain enhancement,” he said.

Last year, the UAE announced that water was one of the “seven pillars” of its innovation strategy, and the Ministry of Presidential Affairs highlighted rain enhancement as one of the most plausible solutions to water scarcity in the arid region.

A presentation shown at NYU Abu Dhabi provided academics with an idea of what has been achieved and, more importantly, the knowledge gaps that they are seeking to address in this round of proposals.

University academics seemed interested in applying for a second year in a row.

“The most immediate interest is in our climate modelling group, which actually has a specific focus on clouds and their role in global climate,” said Dr David McGlennon, vice provost for research administration and university partnerships at NYU Abu Dhabi.

The university could submit the same project its researchers proposed last year, as it did not win an award, but Dr McGlennon pointed to the potential for a more holistic approach, due to the diversity of past winners.

“There were other people from engineering, chemistry and physics who are looking for what opportunities might be present,” he said.

The programme allows proposals that failed to get funding to be re-submitted for future consideration, as they are often dismissed not because of the merits, but timelines, NCMS organisers said.

Mr Al Yazeedi said each cycle of the grant, and the three award recipients, are treated as building blocks to an overarching goal of improving the scientific field. However, the other 12 that made the short list are still considered integral and quite possibly eligible for future grants.