Editors Note: With the events in Egypt turning south after the deposition of an elected government and re-imposition of de-facto Martial Law, it is perhaps, opportunate to review what The Royal Society said late last year in its Atlas of Islamic World Science and Innovation Project report on Egypt. Here is the summary of the document. – A.O.
It is not often that a country is faced with the prospect of rebuilding from the ground up. Egypt’s recent revolution – notwithstanding the many and inevitable challenges it presents – has ushered in an era of unprecedented hope and expectation. This report assesses the current state of science, technology and innovation in Egypt, its strengths and weaknesses, as well as the many ideas under consideration and programmes already in place for improving them.
Its recommendations are as follows.
National research policy
- Devise a mechanism that can help forge partnerships between academic institutions, research centres and the production sector so that research output more effectively meets the needs of the community and of industry.
- Ensure that research funding is used more efficiently and in line with national research priorities. Too often research institutes duplicate work that has previously been done by others. It is important that government identifies the research gaps before trying to fill them, so that research money is used optimally.
- With other partners in the Islamic world, Egypt should seek to build a comprehensive Islamic-world collaborative research funding mechanism, along the lines of the EU’s FP7 programme, that could direct funding to research areas that are crucial to the whole region, such as water resources, renewable energy and agriculture.
- Upgrade school and university curricula and teaching methodology to ensure they reflect the needs of the marketplace, with greater emphasis on problemsolving, critical thinking and communications skills. Revise science curricula to make them more interdisciplinary and to incorporate knowledge about new technologies.
- Increase the emphasis on vocational and technical education, whose critical role is too often downplayed or considered socially inferior to that of higher education.
- Introduce entrepreneurship courses into university degrees and vocational and technical training courses, and encourage more students at universities and research centres to start up their own businesses.
- Dismantle the hierarchical academic culture that restricts the mobility of faculty members within and between universities and inhibits innovation. Discourage universities from solely hiring faculty members who were awarded their PhD by the same institution.
- Grant more autonomy to universities so that they become to a certain extent self-governing, allowing them greater administrative control and greater control over their academic programmes and curricula. Furthermore, encourage the establishment of a single administrative body within each university to supervise the management and operation of all research facilities and their use by researchers.
- Change the merit system by which university officials and faculty members are evaluated so that it takes account not only of published work but also of the extent to which they are involved with or funded by industry – so that building links with industry becomes integral to a researcher’s role.
- Introduce flexible learning programmes in universities to enable women to study without having to sacrifice their other commitments, and a more flexible work environment in universities and research centres.
Business and industry
- Offer more incentives to encourage businesses to invest in R&D in areas that will benefit the country – for example, the government could provide matching funds, infrastructure or tax incentives. In addition, provide the right regulatory environment to encourage more venture capital and private equity funds to invest in young innovative enterprises.
- As part of Egypt’s climate change adaptation strategy, develop a system that gives farmers the most up-to-date information – for example, using mobile ICTs to inform farmers about the impact of rising temperatures on various crops or about best practice for cropping patterns, planting new cultivars or other innovations.
- Launch a national awareness campaign to preserve Egypt’s water supplies, encouraging the efficient use of resources and their protection from pollution. This should become part of formal school and university education.
This project was supported by an international consortium, and the report was endorsed by the partners. The views outlined in this report do not necessarily reflect the policy position of these partner organisations, including the Royal Society.
The report may be accessed in full here.