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[AMMAN] Scientists in the Arabic-speaking world have welcomed the launch of a subscription service by an online academic database of scientific and intellectual research in the region.

The database, called E-Marefa, was launched last month (9 January) and is being overseen by the Jordan-based firm Knowledge World Company for Digital Content.

It aims to provide Arab companies and scientists access to research findings from Arab and Islamic countries.

Subscribers will receive access to some 45,000 existing articles from scientific periodicals and reports, in Arabic and via English translations.

It is hoped that, by the end of 2012, the database will include publications from 250 research centres and academic institutions in 18 Arab countries, bringing the total number of available documents to at least 70,000.

Subscribers will also have access to full text articles from some 450 academic journals, according to Sana' Mousa, E-Marefa's director of scientific content and publishing.

The articles, ranging from research papers to book reviews, will cover the full range of disciplines, from social science to engineering, according to Sami Khazandar, the database's supervisor-general.

"E-Marefa aims to help increase Arabic content on the web, as the entire Arab world has suffered from a shortage of such content," Khazandar told SciDev.Net.

"The database will enhance communication between researchers across the Arab world."

Subscription fees will be charged on a sliding scale according to the size and nature of the subscribing institution, said Mousa.

Major companies and research institutions will be charged up to US$20,000 to subscribe, but universities and the health and medical sectors will receive free access.

Partnerships are also being created to link private companies and major organisations with academic and medical institutions in the Arab world that would otherwise have to pay to use the database.

Mousa said that scientific publications in the Arab world are often perceived as biased and insufficiently based on hard science. E-Marefa will include only peer-reviewed, published work in an effort to combat this, he said.

Mahmoud Sarhan, director-general of King Hussein Cancer Center, told SciDev.Net that the database was a great idea.

"But it is of paramount importance to ensure the database is accurate, user friendly and easy to search before it is widely advertised," he added.

"There is extensive work to be done by E-Marefa to build credibility and trust [for the region]."