Experts Slam Lack of Money for Arab Scientific Research
A lack of investment in scientific research in the Arab world was the major lament of 300 experts who gathered in Sharjah for the creation of an Arab science foundation.
The scientists, from 30 Arab and western countries, painted a grim picture of scientific research in the Arab world during their three-day symposium before announcing the establishment of a non-governmental Arab Scientific Foundation (ASF) at Sharjah University to boost research.
"In the Arab world, scientific research represents an average of 0.25 percent of gross national product, against some 3-3.5 percent in the developed countries, meaning scientific research is the poor cousin of humanity studies in the Arab world," said Tunisian Abdeljalil Temini.
"There are around 8,000 researchers in the Arab world, compared with more than 400,000 in the United States. The Arab world spends nearly four dollars a head on scientific research, about 300 times less than in the US," he told AFP.
"The Arab world's 200 universities spend around one percent of their annual budget on research, while in the US the figure is often above 40 percent," said Marwan Kamal, the secretary general of the Association of Arab Universities (AAU).
"Defense spending in certain oil-producing countries is higher than some developed countries, while money set aside for scientific research is around the same level as some of the world's poorest countries," said Henri Jacqueman, dean of the science faculty of the university of Bethlehem.
"For all that, Arab experts have hit the heights of learning, like Egypt's naturalized American Ahmed Zewail," who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1999," said Abd al-Ilah Abidin from the Jordan Polytechnic.
"But that Nobel Prize for intellectual and scientific creativity came on the back of American laboratories," said Temini.
"In the Arab world, scientific research is negligible, researchers are not encouraged. Responsibility lies with political decision-makers, preoccupied with holding onto power," adds Temini, for whom the "future of scientific research is in private institutions."
The Tunisian academic set up the "Temini Foundation for Scientific Research and Information" in 1989.
"The foundation organizes from six to eight international congresses per year. It has already edited 97 volumes in four languages and published three periodicals," Temini said.
He called upon oil-producing Arab countries to "spend at least 0.01 percent of their revenue on promoting scientific research".
Among those taking part in the symposium were Faruq al-Baz, the Egyptian head of the space research center at Boston University, Palestinian Munir Nayefeh from the physics department of Illinois University, and Harvard biology professor Fakhri al-Bazzaz.
The conference, which ended Wednesday, was organized by the emirate's ruler, Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed al-Qassimi, who gave a million dollars to the ASF.
The University of Sharjah, the AAU and UNESCO co-organized the event -- SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates (AFP).
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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