Faced with the drop in funding, researchers are forced to orient their projects towards what can be described as attractive themes.
The problem is exacerbated by the lack of regulatory frameworks and a culture that hinders opportunities for cooperation; each researcher works according to his own vision, or according to the orientations of senior professors. Some may justify this by 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 think this has led to a drop in patent applications and the failure of universities to support entrepreneurship and to cooperate with industry in order to contribute to development plans. Most Arab universities show an institutional failure to develop the visions of researchers and their methodological tools and to improve the working environment.
How can we overcome all of this?
I believe, first of all, that a new academic culture is necessary to support young researchers and women in particular and thus help to create an environment which encourages the introduction of innovative ideas without restriction or stereotype. In addition, donors should be encouraged to fund all disciplines and subjects in order to produce a balance between different fields and to contribute to real, ongoing and well-established activities that use research to develop societies.
Amal Amin is Assistant Professor of Nanotechnology at the Egyptian National Research Center and founder of Women in Science Without Borders Initiative. See a recent profile of her in Al-Fanar media here: “Amal Amin: An Egyptian Scholar Seeks Equity for All in Research and Science”.