Islamic states agree new plan for science

A classroom of Muslim students Copyright: UNESCO / Sayed Habibullah

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[CAIRO] Islamic states have approved a three-year action plan aiming to promote the role of universities and research institutions in science, technology and innovation-based development.

The plan that will be implemented between 2013 and 2015 and was adopted at a meeting of the executive council of the Morocco-based Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) in Saudi Arabia last month (28–29 November).


  • Islamic states have approved a three-year action plan to promote science-based development
  • Some researchers have criticised the potential effectiveness of such a plan
  • Assessment of the plan's progress could guide implementation

Under the plan, governments will develop policies to identify the country's needs and enhance the scientific and technological base by establishing centres of excellence in research and independent bodies to share successful ideas.

The plan calls for member states to establish multidisciplinary research parks and set up businesses to commericalise research findings. It also includes the establishment of an institution to foster scientific cooperation between member states.

The budget for the plan is around US$45 million, according to the ISESCO website. Within this, US$8m has been allocated for science development programmes that the ISESCO Directorate of Science will manage.

Mohammed Kuchari, associate professor of microbiology at King Abdul Aziz University in Saudi Arabia, tells SciDev.Net that, if properly funded and managed, the plan could help Islamic state-based universities establish links with industry and to strengthen their capacity for innovation so they can play a practical role in promoting the knowledge economy and sustainable development.

But Hassanuddeen Abd Aziz, dean of the centre for postgraduate studies at the International Islamic University Malaysia, argues that this type of general approach to science policymaking does not work.

He suggests adopting new initiatives based on evidence and problem-solving, such as setting up an Islamic observatory for science, technology and innovation development.

"Such an observatory could monitor indicators of scientific development, which would then be used to formulate evidence-based science policy," Abd Aziz tells SciDev.Net.

Hilmi Salem, director-general of applied sciences and engineering research centers at Palestine Technical University, adds: "One plan can not fit with the whole Muslim world as states are at different stages of science development. It remains to be seen how this plan, which at present is just a wishlist, is going to be implemented on the ground in different Islamic states."

Of 57 Islamic states, only five are above the world average in the innovation index, with Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) highest. Just 12 Islamic states are above the world average in the knowledge economy index, with Qatar and UAE highest, according to the 2010 'Research and Scientific Development in OIC Countries'report.

Progress with the plan will be assessed and presented at the next meeting of the ISESCO executive council in Baghdad, Iraq, in October 2013.

Link to the action plan

Link to 'Research and Scientific Development in OIC Countries'