Nature Middle East | House of Wisdom

Takeaways from Qatar’s Annual Research Forum

This is a guest blogpost from Hazem Zohny, one of Nature Middle East’s regular freelancers based in Cairo, Egypt.

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Qatar’s Second Annual Research Forum took off in Doha on November 20 with a panel of nine highly distinguished speakers discussing the conference theme of “globalization of research.”

Discussions ranged from the potential of regional and intercontinental collaborations, to the pivotal role of Qatar in the future of global research, to the needed of a paradigm shift in science education and science journalism. There was an obvious focus on what Qatar can offer the global community, a theme that was prevalent throughout most of the sessions in the meeting.

Yet perhaps what stood out most was the lack of any women among the nine all-male speakers of this opening panel. When discussing something as global as the “globalization of science”, it would have been nice to get some input from the other half of the human population.

At the risk of sounding like an angry feminist, let me quickly add that I was impressed by the overall role of female scientists throughout the core of this forum – which largely served to highlight some 350 research findings coming out of Qatar this year.

The research itself was exhibited in the form of poster presentations of varying quality. A select dozen of high quality research from the different field covered — environmental, computational, biomedical and social sciences — were further highlighted in intensive oral presentations. Here, male and female scientists played a fairly equal role.

Ultimately, there are two things to take away from this forum:

1) While at times Qatar is clearly of interest to specialists of the aforementioned fields, it is still by no means generating regular, world-class research as of yet.

2) The kind of zeal shown by the scientists and institution directors here — along with Qatar’s ample resources to reinforce that zeal with pretty much all the funding they need — suggests that this tiny Gulf state may well continue to host increasingly impressive Annual Research Forums in the coming years.

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