Scientific studies ‘need more funding’

The UAE trails behind Saudi Arabia in publishing such research, a report shows.

ABU DHABI // A Saudi report on scientific research in the Arabian Gulf shows that the UAE needs to boost funding for such studies, academics say.

The UAE was lagging behind Saudi Arabia in the number of scientific studies published, according to the study conducted in 2014 and last year by the college of medicine at King Saud University.

Between 1996 and 2013, the kingdom published 71,129 studies, compared with 21,785 for the UAE, said the research, published in the Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association.

Dr Marc Durandeau, senior vice president of research and development at the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi, said the UAE was lacking a national funding body such as the national science foundation in the United States.

“There needs to be funding coming from a national institution. If you look at Europe and North America, there are permanent bodies of funding,” he said.

Dr Thomas Hochstettler, the institute’s president, said the UAE’s National Research Foundation had been more active when he moved to the country seven years ago.

“Science, technology and engineering are more expensive disciplines to conduct research in than the humanities,” he said. “Saudi Arabia has a greater amount of money for research than the UAE.”

The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, for instance, “has one of the biggest endowments on Earth, comparable with Harvard and Stanford”, said Dr Hochstettler.

“It’s in the billions of dollars, so the income and appreciation on that investment provides millions of dollars of annual support for that institution,” he added.

“The UAE is a sovereign wealth fund which is being used to fund the likes of Masdar and Khalifa University, but the funding isn’t invested on behalf of the university.

“Funding goes to the universities. But in a sense, the universities are competing with all the other goods the sovereign wealth fund might be supporting.”

According to the Saudi report, the kingdom published 0.216 per cent of the world’s publications of scientific studies, followed by the UAE with 0.072 per cent, Kuwait with 0.05 per cent, Oman with 0.03 per cent, Qatar with 0.023 per cent and Bahrain with 0.01 per cent.

Prof Tod Laursen, president of Khalifa University, said science programmes had been struggling to attract students to enrol, “which has important implications in teacher education, foundations needed for study of medicine, sustainability research relating to life sciences, atmospheric and earth sciences”.

The UAE’s productivity in the scientific field mainly came from “researchers working in medicine and engineering, who happen to publish in scientific journals”, said Prof Laursen.

“Overall the ranking of the UAE within this isn’t too bad given the circumstances. It does need to improve however, and I think it will.”

mswan@thenational.ae

Published: September 26, 2016 04:00 AM

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