Egypt is attempting to invigorate science and innovation through stronger political support, according to a report in this week’s Science (6 July).
The country is among the lowest spenders per scientist in the Arab world, allocating only 0.2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to science — the average for developing countries is one per cent. Egypt's scientists contribute just 0.3 per cent of the world's scientific publications, a drop from 0.4 per cent in 1991, and the number of registered patents is low.
Critics claim that productive scientists receive too little of Egypt's science budget, with bureaucracy and a biased grant-awarding system swallowing up most of the funds.
Prime minister Ahmed Nazif has said he wants the budget for research increased up to tenfold, and the cabinet is currently awaiting presidential approval of their new plan to restructure and strengthen science funding.
According to Science, part of this plan is to create a new science and technology council, chaired by Nazif and made up of scientists, cabinet members and representatives from the private sector. The council has been charged with developing a plan to stimulate science and increase spending to at least one per cent of GDP.
The government is also set to overhaul the bureaucracy that administers science and technology in the country, and its system for funding research. It proposes to create a new, streamlined agency that will award funding to research projects on a competitive basis.
Egyptian researchers have yet to be convinced that their lot will improve — many must rely on international grants because local grants are so small.
The presidential decree is expected soon, perhaps later this month.