IAEA Technical Cooperation Projects Yield Sustainable Results: UN Study

Researchers from the Regional Academy of the United Nations (RAUN) have concluded that the IAEA's results-based project management approach is a core factor in ensuring that the IAEA's technical cooperation projects achieve sustainable results. Researchers attributed this success to both the IAEA's tailored approach to providing support to countries, and its focus on knowledge management and dissemination during project implementation.

RAUN facilitates postgraduate student research on topics related to the United Nations organizations in Vienna. In this exercise, student participants conducted a rigorous academic assessment of the sustainability of IAEA technical cooperation projects, using a specific set of projects as a case study. The four early-career researchers supported by RAUN evaluated 22 Secondary Standards Dosimetry Laboratory (SSDL) regional and national projects in 14 countries, allowing RAUN students to examine data both on regional training workshops and on procurement at the national level.

The team of researchers spent more than six months collaborating with a multidisciplinary IAEA team using existing IAEA project data on spending, progress and achievements. The IAEA collects data at every stage of the technical cooperation project lifecycle - from the initial project description to annual reporting exercises. The RAUN team compared initial and subsequent project data to gain insight into long term feasibility of project outcomes. They found that the IAEA's bespoke support and inclusion of knowledge management components throughout projects' implementation helped to ensure the sustainability of project results.

"With their research, RAUN participants collect and analyse data and provide insights that are useful for the United Nations and its affiliate organizations," said Roman Hoffmann, RAUN Coordinator. "The commitment of the participants is key to the success of RAUN's research projects. RAUN participants are dedicated to using their skills and expertise to make an impact with their work."

More than 70 national laboratories participate in the IAEA/WHO Network of SSDLs and work together through regional technical cooperation projects. The students' analysis suggested that the interconnected nature of the SSDL Network contributes to project sustainability. Building upon the RAUN team's initial results, IAEA staff now have valuable information to dig deeper into the wealth of data available.

"This research highlights the importance of the data collected through IAEA platforms. It conveys powerful messages about the tangible results of technical cooperation projects and the sustainability of the IAEA assistance to countries," said Eloisa De Villalobos, Monitoring Officer in the IAEA Department of Technical Cooperation.

RAUN is a non-profit international education programme that brings together UN Organizations and postgraduate students. The 2022 RAUN conference was centred around the theme, 'A common approach to leaving no one behind: how to reduce inequalities through innovation'. Although the Vienna International Centre has hosted the RAUN conference annually since 2014, this was the first time that a RAUN team worked on a project in the field of nuclear technology.

"As a participant in the RAUN project, I gained hands-on experience with the complexities of data analysis in actual implementation," said Ian Hulskamp, RAUN student participant. "Additionally, the unique characteristics of real-world projects meant we had to navigate unexpected obstacles and adapt our methodology accordingly. Overall, these challenges proved to be valuable learning opportunities," Hulskamp said.

What are Secondary Standards Dosimetry Laboratories?

Secondary Standards Dosimetry Laboratories provide calibrations for dosimetry equipment, which are used to measure the amount of ionizing radiation delivered to patients during diagnostic and treatment procedures, and for the measurement of doses received by staff or the public. The IAEA/WHO Network of SSDLs encourages collaboration and enables countries to use dosimetry services of institutions in other countries. Support is also provided by the central SSDL laboratory - the IAEA Dosimetry Laboratory in Seibersdorf, Austria.

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