PLAID: Creating a worldclass database

  • PLAIDTimmons Roberts (c) is surrounded by student researchers during a PLAID reporting session.

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  • PLAIDMichael Tierney leads a Monday-morning reporting session.

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  • PLAIDRob Hicks (rear) told the students concerning PLAID, "This is the real thing."

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Project-Level Aid (PLAID), the groundbreaking interdisciplinary project that was started as the result of a graduate student's research at William & Mary, is well on its way toward the objective of creating a comprehensive Web-accessible database for global donors considering the environmental impact of initiatives they fund. Scholars behind PLAID envision including information on every foreign-aid project committed by bilateral- and multilateral-aid donors around the world since 1973. To date, more than a million projects have been coded.

PLAID received a significant boost in recent months as it received more than $1.4 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and another $500,000 from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Such funding will enable the project to provide the data to the international community and, thereby, assist the distribution of developmental aid along more-informed lines.

At William & Mary, PLAID recieves ongoing support from a cadre of students representing numerous academic disciplines. Recently the Office of University Relations in partnership with the Swem Media Center videotaped interviews with PLAID professors and student contributors to the project. The resulting video is being used by the PLAID team as a means of explaining the project's structure as well as the faculty-student research relationship at William & Mary.