International Foundation for Science (ISF)

Supporting Early Career Scientists in the Global South for 50 Years and Counting

  • Program Type
  • Industry Focus
    Low-Middle and Lower Income Countries (LLMICs)
  • Eligibilty Requirements (Y/N)

The Overall Objective of the IFS Program is to enhance the capacity of early-career scientists in LLMICs to conduct relevant research, influence research agendas at local, regional, and global levels, and increase science literacy.

The Specific Objectives are (i) generation and dissemination of scientific knowledge by early-career LLMIC scientists, and (ii) enhanced capacity of early-career LLMIC scientists to influence, lead, network, fund-raise, and put research into use.

IFS provides tailored research capacity-enhancing support to promising early-career scientists based around the provision of individual Basic Grants and Advanced Grants (one per successful applicant).

IFS Expert Advice - Objectives, Outputs & Outcomes with Professor Chadare Flora

IFS Scientific Adviser and former IFS Grantee, Professor Chadare Flora from the University of Agriculture, Porto Novo, Benin answers questions on the formulation of objectives, outputs & outcomes. She provides examples of defining these aspects for both events and research projects.This video was created for the IFS Workshop on Designing Online Training Events: Preparing a Research Budget.

Basic Research Grant

This is similar to the former IFS granting programme, although with some revisions to criteria for eligibility.

Individual early career researchers in both the natural and social sciences may apply for a Basic Grant to undertake research that is innovative and/or relevant to local or national development needs and problems, and that aims to generate fundamental and/or applicable scientific knowledge.

While IFS continues to emphasise the quality and development relevance of the increasing amount of research it funds, the 2021-2030 Strategy sets out the case for better focusing of its resources on supporting promising early career scientists (no longer defined by age), who are fundamental to increasing science capacity in LLMICs and essential to addressing both national and global challenges.

IFS believes that scientists acquire their skills by conducting research in an enabling environment that includes access to resources and mentorship, both of which are in short supply in LLMICs. As scientists gain experience over time in planning, conducting and publishing their research, they establish a reputation in their field. This helps improve their abilities to identify and prioritise researchable constraints, collaborate with others, develop and lead successful research groups, and influence policy. Scientists who acquire such skills also help to empower the institutions in which they work and build science literacy in their home countries.

Individual early career researchers in both the natural and social sciences may apply for a Basic Grant (up to $15,000, one per successful applicant) to undertake research that is innovative and/or relevant to local or national development needs and problems that aim to generate fundamental and/or applicable scientific knowledge.

Research proposals may be submitted within these three thematic clusters, but applications may as well integrate or cut across them:

  • Biological Resources in Terrestrial Systems
  • Water and Aquatic Resources, and
  • Food Security, Dietary Diversity and Healthy Livelihoods

  • To secure IFS support, applicants must submit a sound research project application on a self-selected topic that is innovative and/or relevant to her or his local or national development needs. The research proposal must demonstrate knowledge of the subject area, identify knowledge gaps, elaborate testable hypotheses and research objectives, develop a convincing, doable and appropriately costed research plan and research dissemination plans. Proposals must be written in English.

    IFS has time-bound calls for proposals with closing dates. These will be announced here on this website - be sure not to miss the submission deadlines!

    Advanced Research Approach

    Research and science remain vital to generating sustainable and inclusive solutions to global challenges. IFS and SEARCA, in keeping with their mandates, works, in part, towards enhancing the scientific capacity of early career scientists to harness new and existing knowledge and to continue to strengthen the possibilities for young researchers to productively engage in the global undertaking to reduce poverty, promote health, fight food insecurity and hunger, and support sustainable development.

    A set of Mentorship Guidelines for Individual and Collaborative Research was developed from the experience and will continue to evolve with the continuing activities of IFS and SEARCA, especially with the launch of the Mentorship Program for Individual and Collaborative Research within the year. This program will support early career scientists who will be awarded IFS-SEARCA grants to carry out individual or collaborative research. They will be provided with various opportunities to work with established researchers who will guide them through a range of capability-enhancing interactions that are specific to grantees' professional needs, from their particular discipline's content to research and interpersonal skills.

    Research Areas Funded by IFS

    The global population is growing at a rate of about 1% per annum and is expected to exceed ten billion by 2050. The challenges facing our growing global population are those of poverty, economic inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, dwindling water resources, need for employment opportunities, land and water conflicts, injustices and threats to democracy. Particularly the challenges are great in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is expected to double its population by 2050 from today's 1.3 billion.

    It is documented by research that humankind is profoundly changing the planet, creating numerous and prescient problems. We live in a world that is more economically integrated and unequal and where the profound challenges posed by climate change are emerging on a global scale. While the relative number is decreasing, the absolute number of those needing to be lifted out of hunger and poverty, in particular in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are increasing.

    These challenges and problems must be addressed by evidence-based research and development. Along with other regional and international organizations committed to increasing investment in science, technology and innovation (STI) to ensure a sustainable planet, IFS is contributing to the understanding and resolution of national and global problems by enhancing the science capacity of early career scientists in the IFS-eligible countries.

    IFS's Focus

    The important contributions through STI development are often not fully realized by policy makers and politicians, leading to budgetary constraints that impede investment in the area. Although higher education has expanded in the regions supported by IFS, especially in Africa, research capacity and science literacy remain weak. Many early career scientists leave their home countries in search of better opportunities to undertake research. This weakens the possibility of LLMIC researchers influencing the setting of global research agendas related to poverty and hunger reduction.If able to conduct research in their home environments and institutions, early career researchers in LLMICs are and will be on the front line to assess the value and validity of research and innovation initiatives that focus on developing solutions.

    There are many examples where research has been used by early career scientists that IFS has supported since its inception. With comparatively small levels of funding from IFS, these researchers have made modest but innovative contributions to addressing national and global problems. IFS's experience shows that enhancing the research capacity of promising early career scientists is an important approach through which scientists engage and contribute to research on local and regional aspects of global challenges. Beyond awarding individual grants to early career scientists, IFS also provides researchers with access to mentoring and contacts within broad scientific networks.

    Applying for an IFS Grant

    IFS welcomes applications from early career researchers in the natural and social sciences. Applications can be discipline-oriented as well as multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary in character. We support original research proposals that are innovative and / or relevant to local or national development needs and problems, and that aim to generate fundamental and / or applicable scientific knowledge. Proposals may be submitted within the three thematic research clusters of:

  • Biological Resources in Terrestrial Systems
  • Water and Aquatic Resources, and
  • Food Security, Dietary Diversity and Healthy Livelihoods
  • Eligibility

    The eligibility criteria (both individual and country eligibility) for the program will be somewhat different from the previous criteria. The new criteria will be described in the page boxes on the pages describing the program.

    Capacity Enhancing Support

    From time to time IFS offers workshops and other supporting services to applicants and grantees, which are collectively referred to as Capacity Enhancing Support (CES). This support can include travel and publication grants, a purchasing service and a range of different types of CES workshops. Some of the workshops are relevant to individual or collaborative research approaches or both.

    Future Phases

    Check out an overview of each competition phase below - complete rules for each phase will be released as the competition progresses.


    Let’s Get Started.

    To apply or join the program, please submit an application.