Editor’s note: This article is part of a package of five articles about the obstacles that researchers in Arab countries face. Readers can access all the articles on this page.
Money alone can’t break through the barriers that researchers working in the Arab region face, barriers that appear to be so frustrating that the majority of them want to leave.
In an online survey by Al-Fanar Media that 650 researchers based in the Arab region responded to, 91 percent said they would prefer to emigrate from the country they are working in.
Poor funding was the number one obstacle cited by the respondents to the online survey, a complaint that they probably share with other researchers around the world. Indeed, 84 percent of the Arab researchers surveyed said they have had to spend their own money on their research. In addition, nearly half of researchers said they did not have a reliable Internet connection at their home institution, and 52 percent said they did not have free access to current academic journals.
But even in the oil-rich states that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council and that have showered scientists with financial support, 81 percent of researchers said they would prefer to work elsewhere in search of more academic freedom and greater career opportunities.
The powerful and widespread urge to emigrate among Arab researchers does not bode well for Arab countries that want to build “knowledge economies” or to create globally competitive universities. “The region needs human capital to improve and overcome our weaknesses in terms of health, education and technology,” says Abdelhamid Nechad, an economist at the Ecole Supérieure du Commerce et des Affaires in Casablanca, who has written about brain drain in Morocco.
Not Just Money
Beyond funding, however, researchers face many logistical barriers. Social scientists, for instance, can find that it takes months or years to get surveys or field research approved by governments, if they ever get approved at all.
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In the Al-Fanar Media survey, key barriers to good research that scientists working in the Arab region stressed were difficulty in getting institutional and government permission to do research and difficulty in traveling to attend international conferences and work with international collaborators.