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A thousand years ago, Arab science led the world. While Europe languished in the Dark Ages, Arab scholars were pioneering developments in algebra and the study of modern astronomy. Today, however, the region is largely a scientific desert.

But new developments are giving Arab scientists just cause for optimism. Throughout the region, spending on research and development (R&D) is on the rise — admittedly from a very low level.

And later this month, scientists will meet in the United Arab Emirates to set the agenda for a foundation that plans to award peer-reviewed grants to the region’s researchers. There is also talk of establishing a fund to build scientific capacity across the entire family of Muslim nations.

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Reference: Nature 416, 120 (2002)