Program Overview and PrioritiesThe Scientific Exchanges Program (SEP) advances USDA’s agricultural research goals to promote collaborative programs among agricultural professionals of eligible countries, the United States, the international agricultural research system, and United States entities conducting research in the agricultural sciences. SEP accomplishes this by providing fellowships to individuals from eligible countries who specialize or have experience in agricultural education, research, extension, or other related fields. Fellowships promote food security and economic growth in eligible countries by educating a new generation of agricultural scientists, increasing scientific knowledge and collaborative research to improve agricultural productivity, and extending that knowledge to users and intermediaries in the marketplace. The collaborative nature of the training and research programs benefits the fellow, his or her home institution, and partner country; the U.S. host institution, its professors, researchers, and students; and the global agricultural sector by improving agricultural productivity, systems, and processes in partnering nations through the transfer of new science and agricultural technologies.Program ObjectivesUSDA will issue up to 11 awards under this announcement.Award 1: USDA will provide an award focusing on understanding food safety issues with a direct impact on international agricultural trade, such as sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and technical barriers to trade (TBT). The award will focus on assisting West African nations in improving their food safety systems by offering “real-world” research opportunities on food safety issues and topics related to SPS measures and TBT. Recipients should consider the potential for using Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) to improve food safety. Additionally, the award will provide a platform for researchers of the same cohort to share ideas and foster collaboration to lead to better intraregional coordination on food safety issues. More broadly, through their research, fellows will affirm the importance of the international standard setting bodies (Codex Alimentarius, the International Plant Protection Convention and the World Organization for Animal Health) to agricultural policy makers responsible for the development or improvement of national food safety regimes throughout West Africa.After recipient(s) are awarded, they will be expected to identify and propose fellows to USDA for final concurrence. Although each fellow should be assigned a specific faculty member as a one-on-one research mentor, USDA envisions that fellows will participate as a cohesive cohort, rather than at individual times, and applicants should prepare their approach accordingly. The award will support a group of fellows from the West Africa region. After recipient(s) are awarded, a project workplan will also be required.Awards 2-11: USDA will provide up to 10 awards for CSA and food systems research. CSA is an integrated approach to managing landscapes—cropland, livestock, forests, and fisheries—that address the interlinked challenges of food security and accelerated climate change. Food systems refers to how climate change efforts can be addressed throughout the agricultural production system, including food loss and waste, sustainable materials management and the development of local and regional markets. USDA is seeking proposal submissions that includes CSA for countries in the African, Asian, Central American, Latin American, and or the Middle Eastern Regions.For all Awards: Each program plan should incorporate elements of leadership and science communication to empower fellows to advocate for sound policy to peers, decision-makers, and the public. In addition, plans should contribute to the strategic goals and objectives of individual fellows, the host institutions and USDA, as well as provide an opportunity for the application of research agendas that can have a direct impact on international trade, food security and economic growth in emerging economies. CSA should be factored into each prospective program plan. Programs are expected to include collaboration with and input from relevant stakeholders, such as U.S. regulatory agencies and the Office of the United States Trade Representative.Ideally, fellows and host institutions will share the knowledge gained through these endeavors in their classroom and extension work with their faculty, students, extension officers, constituents, policy makers, and other stakeholders in the international agricultural marketplace; and that they will continue to maintain professional contacts with the fellows after their departure from the United States.PLACE OF PERFORMANCEThe applicant is expected to host fellows at a research facility on their campus in the United States, with orienting visits to U.S. government regulatory agency in Washington, DC or elsewhere; and field visits as appropriate.Programs should include time at the USDA in Washington DC at the commencement and at the end of their fellowship program to brief and debrief with key USDA officers. The selected awardees will coordinate with the USDA program manager. Programs should also include virtual meetings, outreach, and other activities.Each fellow’s one-on-one mentor is expected to make a reciprocal visit of up to two weeks to the fellow’s home institution.