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The OWSD - Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World

Launched in 2010 by The Elsevier Foundation, TWAS and OWSD, the Awards reward and encourage women working and living in developing countries who are in the early stages of their scientific careers. Awardees must have made a demonstrable impact on the research environment, both at a regional and international level, and have often overcome great challenges to achieve research excellence.

In 2010, this scheme included the selection of 11 early career women from developing countries, working in STEM subjects.  Since 2013, in order to provide more focus and visibility, the number of awards was reduced to 5 per year and scientific disciplines were introduced on a 3-year cycle:

  • 2019 Awards (selected in 2018) Biological sciences: agriculture, biology and medicine
  • 2020 Awards (selected in 2019) Engineering & technology
  • 2021 Awards (selected in 2020) Physical sciences: chemistry, mathematics and physics

Each year a total of five awards are given to women scientists at relatively early stages in their careers (up to ten years after receiving their PhD). One woman is awarded for each of the four OWSD regions plus an additional winner from any of these regions: Africa; the Arab region; Asia and Pacific; and Latin America and the Caribbean (see complete list of countries below).

The award has an important impact on local research cultures. Previous winners say the awards have had a powerful effect, enhancing the visibility of their past work and creating new opportunities for the future. The awardees are powerful role models for young women who are contemplating whether to remain in an environment that is often hostile to their needs and experience.

Find a list of all previous awardees here.

Each winner receives a cash prize of USD 5,000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to attend the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting (13-16 February 2020 in Seattle, 11-14 February 2021 in Phoenix). Lasting 5 days, the event is packed with networking opportunities. The winners receive their award at a special networking ceremony, as well as opportunities to attend workshops and sessions at the AAAS meeting, visits to local laboratories or institutions, and a celebratory dinner organised by the Elsevier Foundation. 

The call opens each year in June and closes end of August.


The applicant must be a female scientist; have received her PhD within the previous 10 years; and have lived and worked in one of the following developing countries for at least 5 of the last 15 years:


Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Dem. Rep. Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Arab Region

Djibouti, Palestine (West Bank & Gaza Strip), Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen.

Asia and Pacific

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Kiribati, Lao People's Dem. Rep., Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.

Latin America & Caribbean

Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay.


The competition will be judged by a distinguished panel of international scientists, including members of TWAS, OWSD and ICTP, and chaired by OWSD. The assessment will be based on achievements in the field, with particular attention paid both to the applicant’s contribution to capacity-building in their region, as well as international impact. Winners will be informed of their selection in November.


Applications are invited from women scientist from the eligible developing countries and must be endorsed by a senior academic scientist (e.g. OWSD members, TWAS Fellows, ICTP visiting scientists and staff, national science academies, national research councils and heads of departments/universities, both in developing and developed countries).

Applications must be made online and they must include: the candidate's curriculum vitae, a full list of publications, at least one (preferably two) reference letter, and the endorsement statement. The endorser cannot also be a referee.

Please note that applications for the 2020 awards open on 28 June 2019.

Successful candidates will be notified by November 2019 and will need to apply immediately for visas for travel to Seattle (U.S.A.), in February 2020.


OWSD Secretariat

Phone: +39 040 2240530  


2019 -  Washington, D.C.

























2018 -  Austin, Texas



2017 -  Boston, Massachusetts



2016 - Washington , D.C.



2015 - San Jose, California



2014 - Chicago, Illinois



2013 - Boston, Massachusetts



2011 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia



Success stories