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[CAIRO] The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) is expected to approve funding for the activities of a 'science development network' that aims to help promote science in the Islamic world.

According to sources within the IDB, the plans are due to be finalised at the 29th annual meeting of the IDB board of governors, which opens today (14 September) in Tehran, Iran.

Mohamed Ghazali, head of the IDB scholarship programme office, through which the funds for the network would be administered, says its proposed activities will include publication of a science magazine, which has the working title Science and Development.

The publication would seek to promote cooperation between scientists, as well as disseminate scientific information, including the results of studies monitoring the development and socio-economic impact of science and technology in member countries of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

Ghazali says the network would also set up a database containing the results of research projects carried out by IDB scholars that have industrial applications. Such a database, he says, will help cooperation between science and industry.

The network will be made up of scientists who have benefited from the IDB merit scholarship programme, and will promote the training of scientists and technologists in the Islamic world by arranging workshops, training programmes and conferences on different fields of science and technology within the Islamic world.

Although the network was originally proposed upon establishment of the IDB merit scholarship programme in 1992, its creation has been delayed while the number of IDB scholars has built up.

Meanwhile, some IDB merit scholars have already formed an informal network by sharing information via e-mail and a regular newsletter. Once formally approved by the IDB, the network's proposed activities could begin immediately, they say.

Formal recognition and funding for the network were most recently proposed by delegates at an IDB forum on 'development of human capital of the Islamic world in science and technology' held in August in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

At that meeting, Wardiman Djojonegoro, former education minister of Indonesia and present chairman of the Jakarta-based Foundation for Human Resources Development for Science and Technology highlighted the poor situation of science in the Islamic world at large.

"Arab nations spend only 0.15 per cent of their GDP on research and development, well below the world average of 1.4 percent, and the number of computers per capita is a quarter of the global average," said Wardiman.

The 244 IDB merit scientists from which the network will be drawn are from 44 OIC member countries and work in 172 institutions. Of these scientists, 141 have PhDs while 103 have also done post-doctoral research. In addition, 120 IDB scholars from 16 least developed member countries that have benefited from the MSc programme may also be included in the proposed network.

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