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  • Egyptian show hopes to shape science stars

[CAIRO] FameLab, the science world's answer to Starmaker and The X Factor, launches in Egypt this week, marking the show's debut in the Arab-speaking world.

Scientists seeking a quick route to fame and fortune — or a way of honing their science communication skills — can enter FameLab, a competition that has produced a stream of 'science stars' from countries such as China, the UK and Turkey.

FameLab asks competitors to present a science topic in less than three minutes to a non-scientific audience and a panel of expert judges. The national winners receive a trip to the UK to compete for the grand prize.

The British Council and Egypt's Research, Development, and Innovation Programme (RDI) will run the competition, organised by The Times Cheltenham Science Festival UK, in Egypt for the first time throughout December.

FameLab will also launch in Libya, Morocco and Palestine.

"The main aim behind FameLab is to build the capacity of science communicators in Egypt and enhance their abilities," Doaa Hafez, science projects manager at the British Council in Egypt, told SciDev.Net. "We want to take science out of labs and classrooms and make it engaging for the public."

In the 1980's, Egypt had some famous science communicators with popular TV shows. "The interest in science here declined through the years. We hope that FameLab will rekindle the passion for science," Hanan Dowidar, deputy coordinator at RDI, told SciDev.Net.

But Yusuf Al-Demerdash, an assistant professor at the Faculty of Science, Cairo University, thinks it will not be easy. "FameLab is a brilliant idea, but it will face many challenges here."

"Most professors and researchers won't participate in such a show. There is a strict halo of seriousness around science in Egypt. They would feel like they are making fools of themselves in front of an audience," Al-Demerdash told SciDev.Net.

He believes that it will appeal to students if they are not busy with exams.

FameLab ran in nine countries last year with success. "In Turkey, FameLab was broadcast on six different TV channels. The public were so eager to attend the show, they would wait outside the competition venue for hours to reserve seats," Hafez said.

Dowidar added that they expect good media coverage for the first Arabic launch of FameLab with qualifying rounds starting on the 12 December and the final scheduled for 26 January 2010.