Qatar, the tiny but hugely wealthy Persian Gulf emirate and its neighbour, mega-rich Saudi Arabia, have vigorous ambitions to achieve scientific eminence.
Qatar, the tiny but hugely wealthy Persian Gulf emirate and its neighbour, mega-rich Saudi Arabia, have vigorous ambitions to achieve scientific eminence. The vision of these countries spell real opportunity for scientists around the world who are willing and able to live and work in technologically advanced but socially conservative Muslim countries.
However, the opportunities in the Muslim world are even broader than initially thought, suggests the 26 January edition of The Economist, because these two Arabian oil states are not the only Muslim-majority nations making rapid advances in building up science.
Jordan has a CERN-style particle physics laboratory, complete with particle accelerator, where an international array of scientists work together.
Turkish scientists' production of published papers more than quadrupled over the first decade of this century. Turkey, which is also enjoying rapid (though not with petro dollars) economic growth, saw annual increases in research spending of 10% from 2005 to 2010, and its spending is now double that of Norway.
Indeed, "a Muslim scientific awakening is under way," The Economist declares. Given the leading role that Muslim scientists, physicians, and mathematicians played in centuries past and the vast resources now available to at least some Muslim countries, this should come as no surprise. We don't call our digits "Arabic numerals" for nothing, after all, nor is the Arabic name of ‘algebra’ an accident.
(The word algebra comes from the Arabic language (الجبر al-jabr "restoration") and much of its methods from Arabic/Islamic mathematics. Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī (c. 780–850) wrote The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing, which established algebra as a mathematical discipline that is independent of geometry and arithmetic).
As The Economist notes, a traveling museum exhibit highlighting "1001 Inventions" from the Muslim world is currently attracting visitors in Washington, D.C.
Also notable are the expatriate scientists from Western countries and elsewhere who have gone to work in the Muslim world. The Economist mentions another notable arrival: the prominent French chemist Jean Fréchet, now at Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, an institution whose $20 billion endowment dwarfs some American titans of research.
The burgeoning Muslim research scene could provide welcome new scientific opportunities.
Darul Ihsan Media Desk