Dr. Khalid Al-Saleh
By Dr Khalid Al-Saleh

soon as some people spot the words "scientific research", they stop reading the column. There is a lack of awareness among many citizens of our countries on the importance of scientific research and its relation to the improvement of their lives. Last week, a special meeting was held in the presence of Sharjah Ruler Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammad Al-Qasimi and ministers from Gulf Cooperation Council member countries, including Kuwaiti Health Minister Dr Ahmad Al-Awadhi, to discuss the need of our region for a reference center for cancer research. This meeting was part of the sixth joint Gulf conference on cancer in GCC countries to be held in Sharjah from Nov 21 to 23.

Cancers are among chronic diseases that have gained major interest from a majority of countries, especially since we doctors are still far from recognizing their direct causes and we are still searching for more risk factors of cancers so we may succeed in halting their spread.

There is a clear failure in the field of scientific research in GCC countries. Although GCC countries are considered high-income countries, we spend less than one percent of our GDP on scientific research. In Kuwait, we spend 0.59 percent, UAE 0.6 percent, while the rest of the Gulf countries are close to this percentage or even less. Of course all these percentages are less than the accepted rate around the world, as the US spent 2.84 percent of its national income on research (over $168 billion), while Japan spends 3.2 percent of its national income ($130 billion).

As for the Zionist entity, which is in the Middle East, it spends around 4.95 percent of its GDP on scientific research and publishes a number of annual research papers that are equal to 30,000 scientific papers per million people, compared to the entire Arab world that publishes around 1,700 scientific papers per million individuals.

As for our research cadres in the Arab world, including the GCC countries, they are way off, as the number of scientists in the US are over 3,500 per million. In Europe the number is around 2,400 scientists per million, but in our Arab world, it is no more than 360 - yes three hundred and sixty scientists per million individuals! Minimal spending, and scientists who either left or are appointed in jobs that are far from their specialties.

Challenges are many, but this time it is different, when a Gulf country take over this issue under the leadership of a man who is known for the love of science - the situation must change. We hope, as a first step, that leaders of GCC countries support the proposal of that meeting in which the International Agency for Research on Cancer participated with its Director Dr Elisabete Weiderpass. It is a proposal that opens the door for reference research centers, and we start with cancer. It does not stop at a certain limit, as the fields of sciences are many and expand every day.

The future of the Gulf will be more secure if scientific research becomes one of the means of evaluation, development and innovation. Each dinar spent on science brings back manyfold, and this is the true investment.

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