Technology and Research in the Arab World

Introduction

According to the report prepared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), easy access to new digital technologies enhances the status of research worldwide and leads companies to emphasize their research and development (Brito, 2010). The appearance and recognition of global institutions has improved investment and property rights. Focus on economic growth and the global recession also allowed countries to enhance research and use the knowledge gained for further development. Still, Arab countries underfund scientific research, in general, and especially when compared to the USA, for example.

Scientific courses at local educational institutions are not very popular among students, which can be explained by the fact that appropriate higher education became accessible only recently, and the number of universities increased greatly during the last decade (Abu-Orabi, 2011). Thus, it is not surprising that the number of researchers in the Arab world is smaller as well. In 2007, there were fewer than 123,000 of them, which prevented the countries from making significant scientific advances (Brito, 2010). Even among those researchers who perform as the representatives of the Arab world, only a few are recognized internationally. The global top 100 of the most prominent scientists include only one professional from Algeria, so, unsurprisingly, the output of scientific research in the Arab countries is rather low. Even though the amount of publications increased by 5,000 in 2002-2008, Arab countries published about 13,500 articles and the USA more than 340,000 (Brito, 2010).

Challenges that Researchers Face

The researchers who represent the Arab world notice that countries which make great improvements in their framework of science and higher education are successful at preparing new talent. Still, a range of related challenges can be observed. It is vital to improve quality assurance, because it allows researchers to be recognized all over the world and be aligned with UNESCO. Educational institutions should make available enough new technologies to prepare prospective professionals to be able to compete with others. The number of specialized centers for scientific research is also limited, which affects the situation adversely.

Another issue is the lack of funding. Scientific research in Arab countries commonly obtains up to 1% of GDP, which is not enough to maintain critical enhancements. Other developed countries allocate about 5%, which allows them to implement more changes (Abu-Orabi, 2011). However, professionals believe that these expenditures will increase soon so that more research and development opportunities will be available. In addition, research priorities and strategies are not clearly defined, which prevents professionals from gaining an understanding of what is critical to focus on in order to support the development of funding. Such a tendency can be connected with the absence of appreciation for research. It seems that Arab countries do not realize how critical the impact of good scientific research is on the well-being of the population. In this way, it is not surprising that networking opportunities and databases require improvement as they can hardly provide the scientists with the opportunity to obtain all the information that is needed for research.

Still, the main reason why the status of research in Arab countries improves slowly is the lack of international collaborative efforts. Talented professionals who have great potential and are willing to innovate tend to move to other countries, where research and development initiatives are highly valued. In this way, the brain-drain prevents the Arab world from achieving more in the scientific framework, and local workforces turn out to be less than capable of delivering to their countries’ potential (Abu-Orabi, 2011). As the majority of future scientists go abroad to attain their desired education, only a few of them return home. Some prefer to stay in other countries because their efforts are recognized there, while others are looking for a better life.

Funding Opportunities

Research in Arab countries is mainly financed by the government, which helps explain why it lacks funding. When requiring support, scientists can try different funding opportunities and approach various agencies. For example, the Middle East Science Fund was set up to benefit Arab researchers. It was created in Jordan eight years ago to support regional projects and improve the status of science and research – promoting cooperation and development. It provides financial aid to maintain scientific activities in different spheres. The main focus is on medicine, as the health status of the Arab population requires improvement. Physics, chemistry, and economics are also supported as well as energy, technology, and the environment. Initially, a significant donation was provided by King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein, who allocated $10 million to the fund (Brito, 2010).

The UAE ICT Fund mainly support research in information and communication technology. It aligns its operations with the UAE plan for future development and growth. The fund ensures that innovative fuel research is maintained so that it is possible to consider green policies. In addition to that, it supports education and training within the sector (ICT Fund, 2017). The National Research Foundation of the UAE promotes research activities in private and public educational institutions and companies. It assists both individual researchers and teams who innovate in the spheres of education and economics (National Research Foundation, 2008). The Qatar National Research Fund also offers funding opportunities. It fosters research in many areas, including “engineering and technology, physical and life sciences, medicine, humanities, social sciences, and the arts” (Qatar Foundation, 2017, para. 1). It was established a decade ago in order to facilitate the development of a research culture both in the country and internationally. The fund has two grant programs and awards more than $300 million through them. It also supports young scientists, trying to encourage talented individuals to assist the Arab world on its way to success.

Research Priorities According to Countries’ Needs

Among the main issues that affect the status of research is the global economic recession. Fortunately, Arab states tend to have well-regulated banking sectors, so that they are not critically influenced by international changes. However, it is impossible to deny that global economic fallout affects the countries within this area as well (even though the effects are not that critical). As a result, the rate of unemployment rises, and problems with food, water, and energy occur. The amount of foreign investment that is supposed to streamline development becomes negatively affected and prevents the countries from attaining expected growth. In order to deal with this issue, more emphasis should be put on science and innovation.

Arab countries tend to allocate their scientific resources to those areas that require improvement currently and affect the lives of the whole population. In this way, much attention is paid to water security. In general, this area lacks water resources, which negatively influences agriculture, households, and industries. Thus, researchers do their best to innovate in the framework of water-saving technologies. Energy security is also addressed, with scientists paying much attention to opportunities for diversification in this sector. They try to create alternative energy sources that will be less expensive and more efficient. In this way, solar and wind energies are researched. Nanotechnologies are currently, widely discussed by scientists all over the world, and Arab countries are not an exception. Initiatives supported by the government are considered in such fields as “thin film silicon photovoltaics; spin-on carbon-based electrodes for the thin film; photovoltaics; and energy recovery from concentrated photovoltaic for desalination” (Brito, 2010, p. 263).

The UAE is often treated as the most developed country in the Arab world. The framework of its research is mainly focused on education, healthcare, environment and infrastructure. The country is willing to prepare talented professionals locally and reduce brain-drain rates. It is believed that such a change will contribute positively to society. The quality of health is expected to improve due to the information obtained from the research studies. Finally, the focus on the green revolution requires much investigation so that ways to safeguard nature can be determined (United in prosperity, 2017).

Conclusion

Thus, it can be claimed that the status of research in the Arab world is improving over time. However, this development is rather slow because of different issues, including lack of funding, brain-drain, and lack of cooperation, etc. Countries tend to realize the importance of research, so they implement initiatives to enhance the situation by providing opportunities to improve the health of the population, access to water, and alternative energy sources. Several funds donate money for research in these spheres, allowing the countries to develop.

References

Abu-Orabi, S. (2011). Scientific research & higher education in the Arab world. Web.

Brito, L. (2010). UNESCO science report 2010. Web.

ICT Fund. (2017). ICT fund introduction. Web.

National Research Foundation. (2008). About us. Web.

Qatar Foundation. (2017). Qatar National Research Fund. Web.

United in prosperity. (2017). Web.