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The political changes underway in Egypt and other countries of the Middle East signal an opportunity for science to flourish — but scientific vigour will not be enough to foster development, transparency and freedom, says Naser Faruqui.

He argues that, to succeed, scientific research must be home-grown rather than imported; it must be multidisciplinary — featuring the social sciences, which are often neglected in developing countries; and it must benefit the whole society, not focus just on growth.

Today's Islamic world is facing low levels of scientific productivity, development and openness, with 15 of the 20 countries that spend the least on poverty-alleviating research and development being members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

But the political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa presents opportunities for change regardless of the new political leaders that may emerge, says Faruqui.

Recent investments in science made by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey show that some leaders in the Muslim world have a growing respect for science — resulting in more Muslim women graduating with advanced science degrees.

But to promote development and democracy, he argues, countries in the region must make far greater investments in science, technology and innovation with the support of international collaborations.