Scientific research in Egypt: Small budget, zero freedom

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If the culture of instilling fear in the people’s souls and the climate of suppressing freedoms since the military coup has led to arrests, the nationalisation of the media and blatant aggression on human rights, then scientific research in Egypt has also been severely damaged. Scientific research crises in Egypt can be easily understood and defined by those working in the field. Perhaps some can propose solutions for it, but the suggestions are not implemented so that Egypt remains backwards and behind in this field.

It is striking that many Egyptian scientists excel in various fields, but outside the country, as they find interest in their research, implement their ideas, and governments support them, which does not happen in their country. It was natural, in light of the marginalisation of scholars and the placing of obstacles in front of them, for people such as Ahmed Zewail to emerge outside Egypt and thousands of doctors, engineers, and economists abroad, from whom Egypt does not benefit.

Scientific research is a difficult and complex field that requires a lot of time, will, money, and freedom in performance and evaluation. All these elements are not available to the researcher in Egypt. Rather, the endless bureaucracy pushes them to migrate from their homeland.

The crisis of scientific research

For the effect of the absence of freedom on scientific research in Egypt, a report by Al-Monitor confirmed that scientific research in Egypt has become a forbidden area. The report explained that researchers’ tasks depend on gathering information, which makes the authorities and the public view them as spies. The report also attributed the obstacles to what it called young bureaucrats, who are employees of government institutions, and they are supposed to help researchers and not stand in their way.

According to specialists’ testimonies, the researcher in Egypt encounters many obstacles during his studies or whilst collecting his scientific material, as field difficulties face the data collection process while not facilitating the researcher’s task. University professors say that the researcher in Egypt is struggling with the various state agencies to prepare his research, in addition to suspicion about him and his objectives and laws which prohibit entry to some places required for research.

The researcher cannot enter places such as prisons, reformatories, army camps, police stations, and some hospitals under some laws. Researchers in Egypt suffer from the confidentiality of official figures and statistics and the failure to provide the researcher with them under national security claims. Researchers are unable to access some sources of information, especially in government departments, that lack transparency and treat researchers like spies or enemies. As a result, the research does not touch certain issues, in the interest of safety and in the absence of laws and regulations to protect researchers from falling under the penalty of law.

Budget and finance

According to researchers’ complaints, the problem of scientific research in Egypt lies in the lack of appreciation from the state and the absence of a communication mechanism between the state and all agencies to facilitate researchers’ access to research. Experts confirm the lack of the budget allocated to scientific research compared to the European country, in which public research has become of great interest, and huge sums are spent on it, as it has turned into a major industry.

In the same context, Ali Abdel Aziz, Vice-President of Ain Shams University for Postgraduate Studies for Research, said that the researcher implements his research idea and then does not find a sponsor for it. Thus, it is considered a wasted effort. He added in a press interview that most of the research carried out by university professors is conducted with the aim of scientific promotion without necessarily being serious research, and it does not touch the living reality and real scientific needs.

The head of the Academy of Scientific Research had described the budget allocated to the academy as small and which did not meet the ambitions of scientific research in Egypt. He explained in press statements that the amount allocated to it in the state’s general budget amounts to EGP 250 million, in addition to EGP 50 million from competitive projects and grants from the European Union, as a result of participating in these projects.

In the same context, Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, said in televised statements that opportunities for financing youth projects are almost non-existent in Egypt. He added that scientific research in Egypt is not on the map for investors and that there are convictions and belief in the majority of the state’s responsibility for scientific research, and this belief is completely wrong, as he described it.