Arab debates: is well-funded science the same as useful science?

What have high literacy rates done for Sri Lanka?

“It’s not only important to do good science, it’s important to have science for development,” Zou’bi [see previous blog post] told the World Science Forum in Budapest.

“Our politicians in many Arab countries invest in science and expect societies to improve. They don’t realise that there is a value chain: it’s a complete set of procedures that have to go in tandem to really uplift the state of society in terms of socio-economic advancement, or have a positive impact on society.

“Otherwise we end up with the ‘Sri Lanka syndrome’, where you have a very high rate of literacy in the country, but no real impact on the socio-economic welfare of the population.”

Khaled Tougan, director of CRDF Global in Jordan, said that research should look at what the people in Arab countries need. For example, in Egypt there is a need for new jobs, so parliamentarians should focus on creating new entrepreneurial opportunities, promoting innovation and commercialisation of ideas.

This is already happening in some of the Arab countries that have avoided the protests – research is looking into what people want from the government. We need to have more bridges between scientists and parliamentarians so the focus in policy plans and budgets can be on the issues that affect people in these countries, such as food, water and energy security, he said, and added that Arab governments should also address the low proportion of investment in science.

Gretchen Kalonji, assistant director general for Natural Sciences at UNESCO said the issue is of “historic importance” and added that “scientists and parliamentarians working together is something that has to be increased”. She said that UNESCO is committed to engaging with science parliamentarian committees throughout the world and “to work together so we can collectively learn how to be more effective”.

Mićo Tatalović, deputy news editor, SciDev.Net


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