7390 The Arab Spring: A Sunny Forecast for the Diaspora Scientists

Saturday, February 18, 2012: 10:00 AM
Room 121 (VCC West Building)
Wael Al-Delaimy , University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA
The Arab world as we know it today was the center of the Islamic Civilization that was responsible for many scientific discoveries and innovations starting in the 9th century that we still benefit from today. These include mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, physics, medicine and many other areas of science that the European renaissance utilized to help initiate the industrial revolution.However, the current status of education and science in the same region lags behind most countries that had comparable educational indices just few decades ago. For example all Arab countries in total have literacy of 56% in the decade ending in 1994 while during that same period 67% of adults in the developing world were literate. There is poor scientific research effort and low quality and quantity of publications. Researchers and academics are not supported with funding or infrastructure. In Egypt, only 0.43 billion from its GDP (equivalent to 0.2% GDP) is dedicated to science and research compared to 76 billion spent in Germany (equivalent to 2% GDP).This poor performance of science and education in the Arab region is one of the trigger factors for the revolutions that swept the region within successive months in early 2011, which has become known as the Arab Spring. This presentation describes some of the reasons for this lack of progress and discusses how democracy in the aftermath of the Arab Spring revolutions will likely open new doors for science advancement in the region. The Diaspora of Arab scientists who left the region as part of the brain drain over the last few decades represent an opportunity for the region to jump-start their science and technology potential. The Diaspora scientists established themselves in institutions around the world and have contributed to science advancements in their newly adopted countries. As a result of the political changes in the aftermath of the Arab Spring revolutions, the Diaspora of Arab scientists are working together to organize themselves in an effort to help support the change in science and education needed to accompany the ongoing political change.The Society for Advancement of Science and Technology in the Arab World (SASTA) is an example of how this effort can be organized. SASTA is working at a multi-level individual, institutional, governmental and regional approach to advance science and technology. Even if this is not going to reverse the brain drain to become brain gain, it will at least create brain circulation. Diaspora scientists from other regions in the world may learn from the example of SASTA.