The so-called "Arab Spring," which has already ousted two leaders and fomented revolution in several other countries, might soon put the Middle East in a position to become "a scientific powerhouse," says US Science Envoy to the Middle East Ahmed Zewail in New Scientist. Zewail — who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1999 and holds the Linus Pauling Chair at the California Institute of Technology — says that although there are individual researchers in the Arabian, Persian, and Turkish Middle East, the region as a whole lags behind the West in scientific endeavor. The history of that area of the world has resulted in "large populations of frustrated people who lack real opportunity," but the "essential ingredients for progress" are present, Zewail adds. First, education must be improved by promoting literacy and ensuring the participation of women. Second, national constitutions must be reformed to allow greater freedom of thought and reward merit and innovation. Third is to start centers of excellence in science and technology so that these countries can begin to compete with the West and "instill in the youth a desire for learning," Zewail says. The recent revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere show that the people of the region are ready for change and that change is possible. The developed world, he adds, needs to partner with the Middle East to improve their research capabilities, with the aim of creating "knowledge-based societies better equipped to be part of the world economy."
A Different Kind of 'Revolution'
Apr 28, 2011