Skip Navigation

ORAU helps Kazakhstan adopt international standard for independent peer review

Reviewer comments will help improve overall quality of faculty research

Female scientists

Second year students of the Nazarbayev University School of Science and Technology participate in biology lab session. NU leadership has partnered with a number of leading universities and research institutions to develop the curriculum and international standards necessary for cultivating Kazakhstan’s next generation of scientists and engineers.

ORAU’s peer review project managers are helping the Republic of Kazakhstan—a country that is bordered by Russia, China and the Caspian Sea—achieve its mission to modernize higher education and equip the country’s students to compete globally as world-class researchers.

It is a complex process that requires a fundamental shift in how top Kazakh students obtain their degrees. In the years following Kazakhstan’s 1991 independence from the Soviet Union, many of the country’s brightest students traveled abroad to study in overseas universities with the condition that each returns and works in Kazakhstan for at least five years following graduation. Under the current modernization effort, the focus has shifted to ways in which Kazakhstan can begin retaining their young scientific and technical talent rather than sending them overseas.

This educational reform started at the top with Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who established in 2010 a new, unique academic institution in the country’s capital city, Astana. The institution, Nazarbayev University, named after the country’s president and unlike other Kazakh institutions, enjoys “legally enshrined” academic freedom and institutional independence. In addition, all of the university’s schools and research centers have partnered with other leading universities and research institutions such as the United States’ Duke University, University of Pennsylvania, Argonne National Laboratory and Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory.

“By aligning NU with world-renowned academic and research institutions, Kazakhstan is clearly saying to the world they want to be a key player on the global stage of science and engineering,” said ORAU Project Manager Brian Herndon. “Independent peer review, which ensures that research dollars are spent wisely and without a conflict of interest, is certainly a critical element to achieving that status. We’re delighted to help NU develop a strong foundation to the university’s research practices.”

Herndon and others at ORAU are assisting NU on two different fronts: reviewing more than 100 faculty research proposals for scientific and technical merit, as well as advising the university on the development of its own internationally accepted peer review process. Proposals that ORAU recommends for funding will receive support from the Nazarbayev University Endowment Fund and the Kazakhstani government.

 “At the present development stage, having unbiased, independent scientific peer review of our proposals is very important. It sets the incentives for our researchers and standards for international quality,” said NU Central Research Office Director Gani Nygymetov. “ORAU’s scientific peer review services are excellent in terms of their quality and fully meeting our needs.”

Taught completely using the English language, NU has established three undergraduate schools: engineering, humanities and social sciences; science and technology; and pre-medicine. Later this year, the university will add master’s and Ph.D. programs for its Schools of Business and Public Policy. Four university research centers are already in operation: Center of Life Sciences, Center for Energy Research, International Interdisciplinary Instrumentation Center and Center for Educational Policy. By 2015, NU hopes to reach its goal of 4,000-5,000 students admitted each year.

ORAU and NU plan to maintain their partnership long-term with an average of 100-150 faculty research proposals undergoing peer review each year. Ultimately, reviewer comments provided back to NU faculty will help improve the overall quality of research plans submitted.

More peer review success stories | Scientific peer review home