The Organization of Islamic Cooperation Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) announces the award of prizes, which are intended to encourage and support scientific contributions in basic sciences. COMSTECH will offer Awards in the fields of Biology and Chemistry during the 16th Session of COMSTECH General Assembly.
When the World Science Forum kicks off on the shore of the Dead Sea in November, it will be the latest jewel in the crown for one of Jordan’s biggest champions of science. Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan successfully lured the high-profile biennial conference to the Middle East for the first time — part of Jordan’s ongoing push to transform itself into a regional research powerhouse. The country hopes to emphasize the power of science to transcend politics and war in the increasingly volatile Middle East.
It’s a tall order, but there are signs that these efforts are beginning to pay off for Jordan, which created its first national science fund in 2005. In February, the country cemented plans for a reticular-chemistry foundry, the world’s first. And in May, the Middle East’s first synchrotron, SESAME, opened near Amman with the backing of seven nations and the Palestinian Authority.
Jordan’s leaders see science, engineering and technology as an engine of economic growth for their 71-year-old country, which lacks the oil resources of many neighbouring states. The nation’s political stability and central location have aided these ambitions. So has its diplomacy: Jordan is one of the only places in the Middle East where scientists from Israel and Arab countries can meet. “We are all in the region facing issues with energy, water and the environment,” El Hassan says. “A bird with avian flu does not know whether there is a peace accord between Israel and Jordan, it just flies across the border.”
The princess did not set out to be an architect of Jordan’s science ambitions, however. In 1994, her father — the brother of King Hussein — asked the then-24-year-old art-school graduate to lead the board of trustees for an information technology college in Amman (now the Princess Sumaya University for Technology). El Hassan initially declined the job, but relented on the condition that she would first earn a computer-science diploma from the school.
Through that experience, El Hassan says, “I came to see science as a tool for human dignity. I began to see myself as a science enabler.” In 2006, she became president of the Royal Scientific Society, an applied-science institution in Amman that also facilitates research collaborations across Jordan.
The country has focused its science efforts on areas that could improve daily life for its citizens, such as energy development. “The country was dependent on oil in Iraq, and then natural gas from Egypt,” says Khaled Toukan, chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission. “The problem with these sole sources is that we were subjected to political changes, like the US invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of the Egyptian government.” Now, he says, Jordan is looking to exploit its uranium resources to include nuclear power, and it is exploring the potential of solar and wind energy.
The Jordanian government is also looking for ways to cope with one of the lowest levels of water availability in the world — a problem that has intensified with the recent influx of an estimated 1.3 million Syrian refugees. Some help could come from a partnership that the Royal Scientific Society announced in February with the University of California, Berkeley, to build a reticular-chemistry foundry. Reticular chemistry involves making porous crystals. It was pioneered by Jordanian chemist Omar Yaghi, who heads the Berkeley Global Science Institute and has developed materials that can harvest water from the atmosphere.
Still, Jordan faces a long climb to fulfil its scientific ambitions. The country spent just over 0.4% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on research and development in 2011, the latest year for which figures are available. That beats its wealthy neighbour Saudi Arabia (0.07% of GDP), but Jordan lags behind some nearby countries, such as Turkey. And although Jordan nearly doubled its yearly output of scientific publications between 2005 and 2014, from 641 to 1,093, the overall number remains small.
To help build research capacity, the government set up the Jordanian Scientific Research Support Fund in 2005. The fund was initially supported by a law that required all companies in Jordan to pay 1% of their profits into the fund. By 2012, when that statute was overturned, the fund had acquired US$85 million. It is now kept afloat by Jordan’s universities, which must spend 3% of their annual budgets on research or contributions to the fund. Between 2008 and 2016, the foundation gave a total of $35 million to 325 projects, mainly in the medical, pharmaceutical and agricultural sciences.
Abeer Al Bawab, a chemist who in March became director of the fund, is thinking deeply about how to monitor its success. “The oldest university in the country is only 55 years old, and the support fund has just been around for ten years,” she notes. Because Jordan is still building its culture of science, Al Bawab says that metrics such as the rate of scientific publications are not by themselves the best indicators of progress. She hopes to quantify the intersections between academic research, science policy and the private sector.
In the meantime, El Hassan hopes that the World Science Forum will help to raise the profile of science in the eyes of the Jordanian public. “A generation of analytical thinkers and risk takers,” she says, “is something I’d like to see.”
02 August 2017 Corrected: 02 August 2017
Almost 60% of commercially available drugs are based on molecules derived from natural sources. Yet only 83 of some 1,100 blockbuster drugs of this type originate from Africa. Meanwhile, tropical and subtropical Africa has up to 45,000 plant species that may hold value for industry and humanity. This multitude represents at least 25% of the world’s plant genetic resources.
With the appropriate infrastructure — technical, legal and regulatory — this treasure trove could translate into enormous wealth. In my view, this would create opportunities for Africa’s youth. I have been laying the groundwork for that translation as an academic, documenting uses of medicinal plants, as an entrepreneur and, most recently, as president of Mauritius. My island nation of 1.3 million people lies in the Indian Ocean about 1,100 kilometres east of Madagascar. I was elected by parliament in 2015, and am charged with upholding Mauritians’ fundamental rights and helping our institutions. I believe key to both tasks is our unique biodiversity.
Very few African countries have made similar efforts. And species are disappearing fast, owing to climate change, habitat loss, development and other pressures. The extinction rate on the continent is almost twice the global average. Mauritius and nearby islands are designated as biodiversity hotspots; yet almost 100 species have become extinct since the arrival of people in the seventeenth century, and only 2% of the native forest remains.
What’s more, traditional information about the uses of plants is usually transmitted orally rather than formally catalogued, and recipes are considered trade and family secrets and so unlikely to be shared. As the African proverb states, an elderly person’s death can be like a library burning to the ground. For too long, we have underestimated and undervalued the insight into our flora and fauna contained in this lore.
Documentation is crucial. As a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Mauritius, I started my career collecting traditional knowledge of locally used medicinal and aromatic plants and grew to realize their huge economic potential. I became a co-founder of the African Association of Medicinal Plants Standards (AAMPS). The AAMPS is a network of dozens of researchers who came together to create the first African Herbal Pharmacopoeia — a scientific database of medicinal plants, and of tests to assess their chemical components and purity. A second volume will be published by 2018.
To commercialize this knowledge — to help it ‘cross the valley of death’ from lab bench to marketplace — I founded a start-up, the Centre for Phytotherapy Research (CEPHYR), in 2009. In 2015, this was rebranded as the Centre International de Développement Pharmaceutique (CIDP); it searches out innovative ingredients from our local species and brings them up to internationally recognized standards.
Many African plant products are showing promise. Standardized extracts of Sceletium tortuosumhave been tested for their tranquillizing properties. The recipe came from the San people of southern Africa. An extract of the hoodia cactus-like plant, also long used by the San to control hunger, was explored as an appetite suppressant by Pfizer and Unilever. Other extracts of African plants — including nuts of the shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) and seed oil of the baobab (Adansonia spp.) — are used commercially in skin and beauty products.
These successes illustrate an opportunity to rethink Africa’s development outside extractive industries. High-quality tertiary education and research would transform our capacity to build on these pockets of promise, as Brazil has shown. In addition, closer partnerships must be developed with philanthropy and the private sector. The CIDP emerged thus; it employs 200 people, and is just one company. There is potential for many more.
Of course, such partnerships must be managed carefully, as I learnt the hard way. I found myself mired in controversy this year after I tried to forge links to build scientific capacity with a London-based charity — Planet Earth Institute, founded by the African businessman Álvaro Sobrinho. The charity has some internationally acclaimed trustees. After scholarships had been awarded to young Mauritians, I withdrew from this initiative following alleged concerns about the business operations.
But bumps in the road should not divert African nations such as mine from becoming producers of knowledge. African academics, funders and policymakers must begin to find new ways to nurture the talents and energy of our young people. Empowered with the latest technology, my hope is that innovators and entrepreneurs will develop a meritocratic culture. My dream is that biodiversity, soundly managed, will bring that sort of bounty to Africa.
ASTANA. KAZINFORM In 2017, Astana will host the Summit on Science and Technologies of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, according to Majilis Speaker Nurlan Nigmatulin.
“We are always ready for cooperation with other countries in development of new technologies and innovations. In this regard, the initiative of President Nursultan Nazarbayev to hold the OIC Summit on Science and Technologies in Astana in 2017 gains a special importance,” said Nigmatulin at the Asian Inter-Parliamentary Forum for Science, Technologies and Innovations.
“The event will give a new impetus to strengthening international ties in development of science and innovations,” the Majilis Speaker explained.
“In our opinion, we need to concentrate our efforts on implementation of the economic development projects and enhancing the role of science and technologies in the Islamic countries to improve social condition of the population,” he stressed.
Noteworthy to say, that the Asian Inter-Parliamentary Forum for Science, Technologies and Innovations includes seven thematic sessions. On the first day of the Forum, the participants will discuss the policy in the sphere of science, technologies and innovations. The agenda includes also issues of formation of legislative base for the development of education and science sectors in the era of globalization, the role of parliamentarians and the ways of their interaction with the national institutions in implementation of national programs and priorities. The participants will debate also research and technical dimensions in productivity. Parliamentarians, governmental officials, researchers and experts from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Indonesia, the Comoro Islands, Pakistan, The Gambia, the Republic of Mali etc. will share their experience at the event.
On the second day of the Forum, the participants will discuss the cooperation among the countries in science, technologies and innovations.
The international experience of India, UAE, Cote d’Ivoire, Morocco and Tajikistan will be considered as well. The issue of transition to “green economy” will be in spotlight of the Forum too.
During the Forum, the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) will present its research into the best models of regulatory-legal framework and incentive mechanisms in the field of science, technologies and innovations in the OIC member and non-member countries.
ISESCO is an active partner in organization of parliamentary forums together with the UNESCO. It contributes to strengthening the role of parliaments’ science committees or commissions in effective implementation of scientific-technical policy and establishment of cooperation among various components of innovation systems as well as in attraction and concentration of resources for the promotion of Kazakhstan’s scientific development.
A final document – Astana Declaration on Strengthening Inter-Parliamentary Islamic Cooperation in the field of Science, Technologies and Innovations – will be signed after the two-day Forum.
The Forum is organized by the Majilis of the Kazakhstan Parliament together with the ISESCO and Islamic Development Bank.
It is with a sense of sadness and sorrow that the President and the Director General of the Islamic World Academy of Sciences (IAS) in Amman, Jordan, announce the passing away of the eminent Turkish scientist: Prof. Mustafa Doruk, Founding Fellow of the Islamic World Academy of Sciences. He was 85.
Prof. Doruk was born on February 23, 1932. He was educated in Turkey, and West Germany, and received the following degrees: (1953) Engineer in Mechanical Engineering, Engineering School, Yildiz/ Istanbul, Turkey.
(1956) Dip-Ing (Higher Diploma), in Mechanical Engineering, Technische Hochschule Darmstadt, Germany. (1961) Dr-Ing (PhD) in Materials Science, Technische Hochschule Darmstadt, Germany.
During the period 1963-1970, he was Assistant Professor at the Middle East Technical University METU, Department of Metallurgical Engineering; Assoc. Prof. (1970-1976), and Full Professor since 1976. He was a United Nations Scholar at the University of California at Los Angeles, Calif. (1972-1973) and Visiting Professor at Technische Hochschule Darmstadt, Germany (1979). He was Chairman of the Department of Metallurgical Engineering at METU (1965-1969); Assistant President and Acting President at METU (1974-1977); and then Dean of Faculty of Engineering at METU (1978-1985). He was Chairman of the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at METU (1988-1997).
Prof. Doruk did research in: Metallography, X-ray Metallography, electrochemical measurements as applied to corrosion and stress corrosion; mechanical measurements as applied to creep and fatigue; mechanical characterization of materials; structures and structural instabilities in chromium-nickel stainless steels; fracture mechanics, structure and mechanical properties of composites; creep rupture; corrosion as well as passivity and electrodeposition.
Prof. Doruk taught undergraduate and graduate students at METU, and offered courses for industrial training in corrosion and chemical cleaning of boilers. He supervised graduate students on several research topics. He gained industrial experience through working in the leading industries in West Germany and through numerous contracted research projects in METU.
Prof. Doruk was a member of the Chamber of Turkish Metallurgical Engineers, member of the Structure and Materials Panel of NATO/AGARD (1981-1994), member of the International Congress of Fracture (ICF), member of the International Congress on Corrosion (ICC) and Founding Member of the Corrosion Association of Turkey. He was also a Founding Fellow of the Islamic World Academy of Sciences (1986).
In November 1999, Prof. Doruk was made “Honorary Senator” of the Technical University of Darmstadt (TUD), Germany, in recognition of his work to establish scientific collaboration between METU (Turkey), and TUD (Germany).
Prof. Doruk will be greatly missed by his colleagues and fellow scientists in Turkey and the Islamic World. “Ina Lillah Wa Ina Ilaihi Raj’oon.”
IAS President, Fellows and staff offer their heartfelt condolences to his family and friends throughout the World.
Impact of Islamic studies on West explored in conference
By Rula Samain – Apr 25,2017
The International Conference on The Islamic Sciences in the Western World (Middle Ages — Renaissance) Exchanges, Transmission, Influence, brings together scientists and researchers from the Arab world and beyond.
The conference, organised by the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies (RIIFS) in cooperation with the International Union of Academies (UAI), Petra University and UNESCO, will review the impact of Islamic studies on the West, using foreign studies to assess this impact in detail.
Inaugurating the event, HRH Prince Hassan, who chairs the RIIFS, called for an approach to science which puts humankind at the centre of the equation of sustainability and development, to enable us to perform our duty, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.
He said that the physical world yearns for order in chaos, highlighting the necessity to establish peace.
“The peace I am talking about is the one that starts from within, that reflects on addressing the shared responsibility in cooperation with science and politics; the medium and long term programmes specially in discussing energy, food and water.”
Noting that Jordan is the second water poorest country worldwide, he asked “How can any country continue or survive without a proper regional method of dealing with water problem?”
He stressed the need for an integrated vision to establish peace with a proper knowledge of sustainable development, calling for a new humanitarian world order.
The real form of capital is the human capital, Prince Hassan said, urging “intellectual-emotional” investment through what he called “The Paths of Thoughts” that can lead to mutual understanding.
Peace can be realised through international cooperation and sharing of responsibility in dealing with politics and science, the prince highlighted, adding that this requires integration and coordination among various initiatives and a holistic vision that puts science in the service of peace.
The prince said that the interfaith dialogue between the followers of religion is also between those with non-religion, adding “The main concern now is how to dialogue with the other.”
UAI Deputy Secretary General Jean-Luc De Paepe gave a briefing about the union, which was created in 1919 in Paris with a general secretariat established in Brussels. It is currently made up of more than 100 academies from 63 countries, including Jordan.
Majida Omar, RIIFS’ director, highlighted the importance of the conference in researching our mutual history and knowledge, which helps on the road to progress.
TÜBA Academy Prizes are annually awarded to three of the nominated scientists each being in one of the following categories of sciences namely 1) Basic and Engineering sciences, 2) Health and Life sciences and 3) Social Sciences and Humanities. Every year one of the prizes is awarded to scientists with Turkish connection, meaning those who work in Turkey and/or study Turkey.
TÜBA Academy Prizes are given to those scientists with ORIGINAL, LEADING and PATH-BREAKING works in their fields. Nominations are made by TÜBA members, academies and inter-academy organizations with which TÜBA is in cooperation and other science institutions and scientists invited as nominators. Members of TÜBA and those who take part in the evaluation process of the prizes cannot be nominated.
The nominees are evaluated by a Prize Committee in each category. The Committees, composed of TÜBA members and renowned scientists, examine the works of the candidates via a rigorous process involving peer-review and identify the possible prize laureates. The laureates are announced by the Academy Council of TÜBA. The Academy Prizes, comprising an Academy Medal and prize money of USD 30.000 for each, are awarded in a special ceremony. The Prize Ceremony is held under the auspices of the President of the Republic of Turkey.