Science is fiction in Egypt
Science is fiction in Egypt
Thursday, April 15,2010 09:29
By Jordan C. Terrell

CAIRO: Egypt has a lot of problems with clean water distribution, illnesses, and overcrowding. These problems are shared with a lot of the region’s countries. However, one of the main tools in providing a solution is often over looked, thus creating another problem: not enough science education.

“Civilization is measured by science and we are way behind,” said editor of Nature Middle East Mohammad Yahia.

Science can potentially solve most of the problems of Egypt and the region, said Yahia. Problems with poverty and culture could be solved with scientific research. Before research can be conducted there needs to be adequate science education.

“Because there isn’t proper science education people are unaware of the problem and the problems accumulate and remain,” continued Yahia. “Proper education would open the door to the chance to actually be involved in research that could help the region.”

One of the problems of the region is malaria. There is an estimated 250 million cases of malaria globally each year. The dirty water and mosquito driven disease has made its home across the Africa continent, with the disease a major public health issue in more than 109 countries, 45 of those countries in Africa.

“It [Malaria] kills 6 million people every year, but because all those people are living in Africa it’s not a problem of the West,” added Yahia, “so no one is really going to solve that kind of problem except if they have researched the region.”

Egypt and the regional nations need to keep their researchers and scientists at home in order to provide solutions to their nation’s problems. Avoid brain drain. If they study abroad and solve other countries problems, their home countries’ problems remain and accumulate, most experts argue. In order to do so there needs to be more “at home” science opportunities.

“The African diaspora provides powerful intellectual input to the research achievements of other countries, but returns less benefit to the countries of birth,” said Jonathan Adams, the director of research evaluation for Reuters.

In recent years there has been huge output of research coming from Egypt, more than any Arab country, said Yahia. However, Saudi Arabia has had less quantity, but much higher quality research being conducted, he admitted.

Egypt was among the top three countries in Africa of scientific research output last year. South Africa, however, was still far ahead of Egypt, according to Reuter’s database to track scientific publications.

“Africa’s overall volume of activity remains small, much smaller than is desirable if the potential contribution of its researchers is to be realized for the benefit of its populations,” said Adams.

Yahia has a solution to fix the science education problem. First, generate interest and excitement about science. That is followed by research centers, with research centers there can be a research culture that evolves.

“That is not done over night,” said Yahia, “that takes decades.” He added that with the Internet and science being a lot more communicable than it had been in previous years, it can be done in shorter time.

“This culture is the driving wheel of the science generation,” he added. “This culture needs funding in order for this to happen.”

In order to get funding Yahia explains that state funding is not enough money. Research centers need to take on a private sector-style mentality in order to gain more money to keep research going. This would provide more jobs for the region the Nature editor said. Providing jobs is fundamental in overcoming poverty and would create more opportunities for a greater number of young people to get interested in the sciences.

Republished with permission from bikya masr