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[CAIRO] The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has approved a significant increase in funding for its programme offering scholarships to Muslim scientists, and has called for the creation of a foundation to give further support to gifted researchers from the Muslim world.

 

In a meeting held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia from 4 to 7 February, the IDB board of executive directors approved the allocation of an extra two per cent of the bank's annual net income (a minimum of US$2 million) to its Merit Scholarship Programme (MSP) for doctoral and post-doctoral research.

This is in addition to the IDB's existing investment of nearly US$1 million each year.

Also at the Jeddah meeting, Faisal Abdul Aziz Al-Zamil, the IDB's executive director, called for the establishment of a foundation to award fellowships and travel grants to researchers in Muslim countries. The foundation, he said, should be financed by the private sector in Muslim countries.

The MSP provides scholarships to scientists of member nations of the IDB to undertake training in research institutes in industrialised nations, in emerging high-tech Asian countries and in centres of excellence in the Muslim world.

According to a report by Ahmed Mohamed Ali, the bank's president, 80 per cent of IDB member countries and 172 institutions have benefited from the scholarship programme.

 

However, he says the programme's budget is not sufficient because of the increased cost of scientific training and education in Western countries and of the falling value of the US dollar.

 

The report indicated that the 57 predominantly Muslim countries have 23 per cent of the world population but less than two per cent of the world’s scientists. 

It called for an 11-fold increase in the number of scientists in Muslim countries, to bring the number of postdoctoral researchers to 3,000. To achieve this target, nations would have to increase investment in science and technology to 1.4 per cent of their gross domestic product, according to the report.

Speaking about proposed foundation for gifted scientists, Al-Zamil said it would award fellowships, international science prizes, and medals to talented researchers. 

It would also provide a forum for researchers in the Muslim world and Muslim scientists living in the West to meet, exchange knowledge, and develop programmes for achieving excellence in scientific research and the transfer science and technology to Muslim countries.

Among its other activities would be training courses, workshops, and conferences.

Mohamed Baghdadi, director of the IDB science and technology office, told SciDev.Net that the bank has also launched this year a programme to support young researchers.

 

It provides funding and administrative support to young researchers intending to conduct research in their home country. Selected applicants will receive a grant of up to US$15,000.

 

The MSP programme was established in June 1989 and began awarding scholarships in 1992. A total of US$11 million has been spent on it since its creation.

 

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