WENR, June 2014: Middle East


Study: Iran Has the World’s Fastest Growing Research Output

Simon Marginson writes about the globalization of research science in Times Higher Education, highlighting trends underlined in a recent report from the U.S. National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Indicators 2014 [1]. According to the report, expenditure has risen sharply in East Asia and is producing results in countries like China that are beginning to rival that of the United States, while also fostering transpacific scientific cooperation.

However, the fastest-growing science system is that of Iran, where the output of research papers rose by 23 percent a year between 2001 and 2011, led by physics and chemistry. In 2001, Iran’s scientific output was only one-sixth that of its main political opponent in the Middle East, Israel.  Ten years later, it produced 8,176 papers, compared with Israel’s 6,096. Nonetheless, Israel remains much stronger in terms of citation impact.

Times Higher Education [2]
May 15, 2014

Iranians Head Overseas for Higher Education, Few Come Home

In his flat in central Tehran, Araz Alipour counts on one hand his college friends who have chosen to build a career in Iran. “Easily 90 percent of them have gone overseas,” the 29-year-old software developer said, reflecting on a middle-class flight that has seen many of the nation’s best scientists and engineers leave the country.

Mainly heading to Europe and North America, Seyyed Hassan Hosseini, deputy chief of Iran’s National Elites Foundation, said in April that over the past two years at least 40 percent of top-performing students in science and engineering left the Persian Gulf nation

More than 8,700 Iranian students were in the U.S. alone in 2013, according to the Institute of International Education [3], up by 25 percent on the year prior and making Iran the 15th largest source of international students in the U.S. And many won’t return. A 2012 survey by the Washington D.C.- based National Science Foundation said 89 percent of Iranian doctoral students remained in the U.S. after graduation, the joint highest percentage of all nationalities surveyed, alongside Chinese. Iran’s Shargh newspaper found that 140 of 255 students who participated in International Science Olympiads between 1993 and 2007 were at leading universities abroad.

While Iranians had been leaving since before the 1979 Islamic revolution, the economic decline and disputed election presided over by Rouhani’ Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spurred a new wave of migration. The flood of emigrants has rung alarm bells at the highest level. President Hassan Rouhani prioritized stemming the tide of “fleeing brains” during his election campaign last year. However, as global companies plot a post-sanctions strategy for Iran amid optimism that nuclear talks may ease its isolation, they could find their ambitions thwarted by a skills shortage.

Bloomberg News [4]
May 2, 2014

Saudi Arabia

Princess: KAUST Not Educating Enough Saudis

A Saudi princess has attacked the flagship university set up by her own uncle, the king of Saudi Arabia, as a “disaster” because it does not educate enough local students.

Basmah bint Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud told Times Higher Education that her country needs to embrace mass higher education rather than bringing in Western scholars to educate an “elite” – a model she claims is used by the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology [5] (KAUST), which started teaching in 2009 backed by a $10 billion endowment from the monarch himself.

At a conference on Gulf education held in London she told Times Higher Education that KAUST was for the “elites of the elites of the elites of the elites – of not even Saudi Arabia.”

Princess Basmah asked why the university was not educating more Saudis. “It’s a disaster… you see Japanese and Chinese coming to learn in Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Arabian [students] have no … right to go there,” she said – adding that those Saudi students who did attend were still drawn from a tiny elite. Brian Moran, dean of graduate affairs at KAUST, countered that at the university’s most recent commencement ceremony in December last year, 37 percent of the students were Saudis.

Times Higher Education [6]
April 24, 2014