In light of the decline in funding, researchers are forced to direct their projects towards what can be described as attractive topics.
The problem is exacerbated by the absence of regulatory frameworks and a culture which inhibits opportunities for cooperation; each researcher works according to her or his own vision, or the directions of senior professors. Some may justify this by the fear of overlapping specializations, or the tyranny of one field over another.
The result is the absence of the “research team” as an effective concept in universities and research centers.
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Personally, I believe that this has led to a decline in patent applications and to the failure of universities to support entrepreneurship and cooperate with industry so as to contribute to development plans. Most Arab universities show an institutional failure to develop researchers’ visions and their methodological tools and improve the work environment.
How can we overcome all of this?
I believe, first, that a new academic culture is needed to support young researchers and women in particular and thus to help create an environment that encourages the introduction of innovative ideas without restriction or stereotyping. In addition, donors should be encouraged to fund all disciplines and topics so as to produce a balance between different fields and contribute to genuine, ongoing and well-established activities that use research to develop societies.
Amal Amin is an assistant professor of nanotechnology at Egypt’s National Research Centre, and founder of the Women in Science Without Borders Initiative. See a recent Al-Fanar Media profile of her here: “Amal Amin: An Egyptian Scholar Seeks Equity for All in Research and Science.”