In This Review

Science, Development, and Sovereignty in the Arab World
Science, Development, and Sovereignty in the Arab World
By A. B. Zahlan
Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, 264 pp.

For decades, Zahlan has been a prolific observer of Arab scientific output, informed by his training as a physicist. His report on the state of science in the Arab world is withering, but not despairing. All the ingredients for Arab success in research and development are at hand except the political culture and will. Organic links among universities, industries, and markets do not exist in the Arab world because governments have funded turnkey projects without insisting that developers share underlying technologies. This “off the shelf” approach means that neither governments nor industries need to turn to universities or research centers for advanced research and development. With that critical link broken, there is little impetus for the development of the type of professional associations and networks that undergird scientific professionalism. There is also no impetus for pan-Arab scientific cooperation. The results are clear. In 2009, there were only 31 scientists in the Arab world with any measure of international visibility. Since 1970, South Korea’s research-and-development output has increased from half the size of the Arab world’s to 20 times as large, and Israel’s research output, on a per capita basis, is 26 times as large as the Arab world’s.