US-ISLAMIC STATES: Science link-up to be launched

A ground-breaking initiative to foster higher education and scientific cooperation among Islamic countries, and between them and the United States, will be launched next May. The US-Islamic States innovation initiative is the first of its kind in the Middle East and Africa.

It reflects US President Barack Obama's policy toward the Islamic world, set out in his historic 2009 address at the University of Cairo, A new beginning, and will be launched at the USA-Muslim World science and technology convergence summit that will be held under the theme 'Next Spring Revolution' in Marrakesh, Morocco, from 23-27 May 2012.

A statement on the summit's website says: "Although it is a US-Muslim World initiative, the summit is open to all nations from all over the world. It is intended to be the starting point for a global platform of open innovation."

Besides contributing to the development of tertiary institutions, the initiative will stimulate business partnerships and investment in technology transfer, research and development, contract manufacturing, and contract research between the US and Islamic countries.

These aims will be implemented through partnerships and decentralised cooperation between cities, universities, laboratories, professional organisations, charities and foundations from both sides. Professional social networks will be created on open innovation platforms to aid collaboration and cooperation online throughout the year and meetings, offline, once a year.

Speaking to University World News Abderrahim Merzak, coordinator of the US-Islamic World initiative, said: "This is the first event of its kind among Islamic countries with such scope and size."

He said it will be the first time higher education professionals, researchers, solutions providers and industry representatives from the US and Islamic countries will gather under the same roof with policy-makers from governments and foundations.

"The summit includes one major convention dedicated to higher education, sciences and R&D while all other conventions deal, in one way or another, with teaching and learning in specific fields," Merzak said.

Under the initiative, a regular education forum will be set up for academics, university leaders and administrators, curriculum developers and policy-makers.

The forum will promote the latest developments in all areas of education technology including smart and mobile classrooms, virtual universities and learning systems, world wide web courses, network-based education systems and computer-assisted learning.

Besides helping in applying research and development related to improving teaching, learning organisation management and establishing a research agenda, the education forum will focus on connecting professionals, officials, policy-makers and businesses worldwide.

It will also offer assistance to decision-makers concerned with developing progressive education policy. They will be shown how to go through planning processes and the steps necessary to develop an integrated technology planning team and a plan.

The forum will also promote cooperation between universities in science and technology including training programmes and conferences, joint research projects and regional scientific networks.

"The summit has set up its own community, so participants can start networking and working together months before and after the event. The community is searchable by members, specialty and industry," Merzak said.

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This would be an excellent interactive forum among Muslim countries and the US. Of course the Muslim countries, in spite of having the largest volume of natural resources and manpower, are facing extreme difficulties in managing all these. It has made the quality of life miserable and frustration is prevailing in most of these regions.

The Science link-up will facilitate the researchers, investors and policy makers in sharing resources among Muslim countries and would speed up the development process. It will reduce the poverty which has provided a breeding ground for terrorism. Combating poverty and illiteracy will improve the quality of life in the Muslim countries.

The lack of democracy and presence of terrorist activities has converted the Muslim regions into the battle grounds for international wars and conflicts. Developing a productive partnership with the US will help in reducing these conflicts in a constructive engagement which may help with technology transfer and finding solutions to the local problems in the Muslim countries.

Professor M Subhan Qureshi, Agricultural University Peshawar, Pakistan


Aah! I think this is a significant milestone and a great opportunity. Muslim ummah should before hand enter into ummah-wide dialogue, deliberations and in depth consultations at all levels to identify and agree goals and strategic objectives for this important link up.

Care must be taken to create a win-win situation without losing our ideals, norms and values in the link-up process.

Saeed Anwar