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  • Reinstate science attachés to Arab countries

The United States should use science diplomacy to encourage stability and economic growth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) by appointing science and technology attachés to embassies in the region, argues Farouk El-Baz, a professor at Boston University and Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt.

Attachés could provide vital support to the six science envoys sent to Muslim majority countries in a drive to strengthen ties with the region
announced by US president Barack Obama in 2009, he says.

They can encourage cooperation by engaging with local researchers and institutions, ensuring that projects address real needs in host countries.

The turmoil sweeping the MENA region makes clear that young people are eager to use
innovation and entrepreneurship to avoid slipping into poverty, says El-Baz. But countries in the Muslim world must provide them with the education and the right environment for scientific research to make an impact on development.

Science attachés would not be new to US embassies: Egypt and India, for example, benefited from them before budget cuts brought the programme to an end about two decades ago. Now is the right time to restore the attachés and take science diplomacy further to benefit both sides, argues El-Baz.

"With many Western researchers available to collaborate and exchange skills, science diplomacy has great potential as a tool in international development and cultural exchange," he says. "Our leaders should seize this opportunity."

Link to full article in Science Progress