As a scientist who has struggled to conduct world-class science in Jordan over the past two decades, I have been able retrospectively to identify key challenges in the system in Jordan that are similar across many developing countries.
I have also seen, as president of the Society for the Advancement of Science and Technology in the Arab World, what my fellow scientists have faced in their respective countries. What surprised me during the Covid-19 crisis is that many of these challenges exist in developed countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States as well. With high pressure, the cracks start to appear.
For example, Walid Al-Zyoud, head of the biomedical engineering department at the German Jordanian University, in Amman, was principal investigator on a team that developed a novel method to isolate and identify the virus that causes Covid-19. (See a related article, “Jordanian Researchers Create a Cheaper, Faster Coronavirus Test.”)
Al-Zyoud faced multiple obstacles in taking this discovery to the stage of production of a coronavirus test. The first obstacle was registering an intellectual property.
First of all, in Jordan one can only register an intellectual property in the name of an organization, not as an individual. Jordan is updating this system, but the process is still in its infancy because many rules and regulations must be created to support intellectual property rights. Most universities do not have an office for such issues, even though faculty discoveries are not only a source of pride but also of money for the university. I put Al-Zyoud in touch with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which recently signed an agreement with the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation to support collaborations between faculty and research scientists at MIT and their counterparts in Jordan.
The next obstacle is the lengthy process for obtaining approval of a new pharmaceutical device from the Jordan Food and Drug Administration. Because of the emergency laws that were introduced for Covid-19 in Jordan, the registration process has been expedited so that the Ministry of Health can give a green light to the Food and Drug Administration to move forward.