Islamic countries 'dragging their feet' on science plan
Scientists and policymakers have urged the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to speed up the implementation of a ten-year plan, adopted in 2005, to promote science and technology in the Muslim world (see: Islamic states urged to follow 10-year science plan).
At a forum on the implementation of the 'Makkah Declaration', held last week (1–3 September) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the country's prime minister and chairman of the OIC, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said that in the 20 months since the plan's adoption, "we have not been able to move significantly beyond the preparatory planning and coordination stages".
Delegates at the forum heard that to successfully implement the OIC's science plan, the Islamic world needs to promote investment in research and development, improve its scientific workforce, increase its science budget, reform educational institutions, combat brain drain and set up a committee to monitor and evaluate the plan.
Badawi outlined five points to prevent the plan from "gathering dust on the shelves of history", including sustaining collective political will, developing human capital, allocating adequate resources and promoting partnership with the international community.
Ahmed Abdullah Azad, from Brac University in Bangladesh, told SciDev.Net that there is an urgent need to set up an advisory and implementation committee made up of scientific leaders in different disciplines from OIC member countries.
He also called for efforts to focus on niche areas of science where OIC countries have existing strength in the establishment of centres of excellence and the encouragement of multidisciplinary collaboration. Such moves could help collaborative research groups compete for major international grants, he said.
Tun Musa Hitam, chairman of the World Economic Islamic Forum Foundation, says implementing the Makkah Declaration action plan requires the participation of OIC institutions as well as the private sector.
He adds that there are many stumbling blocks — including bureaucracy and corruption — which slow government implementation of the plan.
Ali Abdel Gadir Ali, deputy director general of Kuwait-based Arab Planning Institute, called upon each Muslim country to reform their educational institutions and spend one per cent of gross domestic product on research and development.
Average spending in OIC countries is 0.38 per cent compared to an average of 2.3 per cent in the rest of the world, he says.