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Science and policy

September 1, 2008

Every once in a while, advocates of scientific research in Jordan come out and discuss the obstacles that face researchers in this country. People like Professors Anwar Batikhi and Adnan Badran have even participated to set up a society called “Society of friends of scientific research at universities in Jordan”. Unfortunately, I can’t find a web site to link.

Obstacles include poor funding, high teaching loads, not enough researchers and under appreciation of the importance of scientific research with policy makers. These problems are well known and quantified. I believe that the lobbying has impacted positively, with the establishment and activation of the Scientific Research Fund. Hopefully, the funding will help stimulate more and better research.

One aspect that needs more attention in my view is the issue of putting research results to work. I have heard many generic complaints that scientific research in Jordan is “weak”, as an excuse not to consider research results for implementation. Clearly, this is a cop out, and there is a problem with the lack of institutional mechanisms as well as with negative attitudes.

This is why I read with interest the results of a survey conducted by the Science and Development Network. The survey is international in scope, but I found that many of the conclusions are applicable to Jordan. Specifically, there seems to be a trend in Third World countries towards poor institutionalization of communication between researchers and policy makers. One main conclusion is that “the communication of scientific information for evidence-based policymaking is poorly institutionalised in developing country contexts”.

In an editorial on the results, David Dickson noted that some issues, such as “close personal relationships between scientists and politicians are widely acknowledged to be more important for getting science into policy in the developing world than elsewhere. The implications need to be better understood to strengthen institutional relationships between the two sides”.

After the establishment of the Scientific Research Fund, I believe that the next big challenge is to establish an effective mechanism to disseminate scientific research to the public and to integrate research more closely into projects and policies effecting our environment, resources, infrastructure, economy and society. This is a formidable challenge, but one worth undertaking. Spending more money is only the beginning.

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