Lecture halls at the Weill Cornell Medical College campus in Education City, Doha, Qatar. Credit: vobios
This landmark study explored the changing landscape of science and innovation across a diverse selection of countries with large Muslim populations in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Working closely with partners in each of the countries, the project charted the delicate interplay between science, innovation, culture and politics and explored new opportunities for partnership and exchange with the wider world.
The history of Islamic-world science and innovation is one of a period of great flourishing followed by a steep and protracted decline. Today, average research and development spending across the 57 member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is very low. This is not simply a sign of relative poverty – some of the oil producing Gulf states are among the world’s lowest investors in research as a percentage of GDP.
But now there are signs of renewed ambition and investment in education, science and innovation, with strong support from national governments, businesses, philanthropists and bodies like the OIC.
The path to a more innovative Islamic-world is not without obstacles. Salaries, infrastructure and research grants remain low, and there is still a substantial brain drain, with many talented scientists and engineers opting to pursue their careers in the US and Europe. A more fundamental question is the extent to which societies where open debate is not always the norm can become centres of creativity and invention.
The project mapped key trends in science and technology-based innovation across the 57 OIC Member Countries. Looking in detail at a geographically and economically diverse set of countries, the Atlas project offered an independent and authoritative assessment of how their science and innovation capabilities are changing, and the opportunities and barriers to further progress; and explored new opportunities for partnership and exchange.