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[CAIRO] Egypt has compiled a database of almost 50,000 PhD theses that Egyptians have published in the past 20 years, in an effort to understand how much home-grown science is languishing unused on library shelves.

The Science Age Society (SAS) launched the database earlier this month (4 August) and will soon make it available on its website. It lists all the work done by Egyptians, inside or outside the country, as part of their PhD degrees from 1990 to 2009.

The database is the first stage of a project to map Egyptian research that is seen as essential for reinvigorating the science sector in the country.

"Our target for the Science Map Project is to contribute to building a scientific base in Egypt built on the statistical evidence," Kadria Said, executive manager of the project, told SciDev.Net.

The project is a collective effort started in August 2010 between the SAS and the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics.

"We weren't able to find any computerised database archives of academic researchers in Egypt so we began thinking of building a database that could be considered a reference for every researcher to help him both to be aware of the historical effort done in his speciality and not to repeat it again," said Hassan Abol-Enein, SAS head and director of Urology and Nephrology Center in Mansoura.

The project found 49,853 PhD theses written by Egyptians, including 2,898 theses from outside Egypt.

"All this research cost our country millions of dollars and yet Egypt gained no real benefits from them," Abol-Enein told SciDev.Net.

The next phase, which depends on winning government funding, will be to assess any benefits derived from these theses against their cost.

In the third phase, the group hopes to map all of Egypt's science research centres, categorising them and documenting their facilities.

Ali Hebeish, president of the Egyptian Syndicate of Scientific Professions, said the project is "a good start towards developing science research in Egypt, if we hope to regain Egyptian academic prestige".

He said that up to three-quarters of Egyptian researchers do their work in an academic context, for example to obtain a PhD, compared with 15 per cent of US researchers.

Mohamed Abdel-Mottaleb, director of the nanotechnology department at Nile University, said: "There is no networking or coordinating between Egyptian researchers. So having such a database, which would coordinate and ease the communication between research teams, is a very helpful effort."

But the database should be only the start, he said: "We don't need abstract statistics; we need to form networking and final recommendations after the end of this project".