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Iraq is to establish a scientific research authority (SRA) to promote science and technology research and improve science policy, and will consider a new law offering scientists significant financial benefits.

The SRA was announced by Abd Dhiab al-Ajili, the Iraqi minister for higher education and scientific research last week (15 September).

It will function independently from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MHESR) and have a separate, as yet undisclosed, budget. Its exact start date has yet to be decided.

The authority will oversee all of the science and technology centres associated with universities and have the capacity to fund research directly. It will also prepare science policy reports reviewing subjects including best practice for funding research, measuring the quality of scientific research, and methods for knowledge dissemination.

The SRA will suggest educational programmes and provide analysis for the MHESR on Iraq's needs to build its scientific and technological capacity. It will also provide advice to the MHESR and university science centres on topics such as ethics, socioeconomic impact, health and environmental concerns and intellectual property rights.

The Iraqi government is also set to consider a new law aiming to persuade scientists, innovators and engineers abroad to return to the country.

Samir Ibrahim Abbas, deputy director-general at the Iraq Ministry of Science and Technology and a member of the ministerial committee preparing the law, says a draft will be ready within six weeks and submitted to the government.

The proposed law also offers incentives to top scientists and innovators working in Iraq.

These include increased salaries — currently on average less than US$1,000 a month — of 300–350 per cent making it equivalent to the Iraqi deputy ministerial salary level. Other benefits include exemption from the mandatory retirement age of 63 years and preferential treatment and reduced prices when buying land for housing.

Abbas says the law will reward different levels of scientists and innovators depending on their scientific achievements.

Scientists would be expected to apply for the benefits, overseen by a central body comprising representatives from scientific committees in different scientific and technological fields who would be responsible for the evaluation and assessment of candidates.

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