Monday, August 29, 2011

Muslim-Science.Com: a new, ambitious portal

This is a weekly post by Nidhal Guessoum (see his earlier posts here). Nidhal is an astrophysicist and Professor of Physics at American University of Sharjah and is the author of Islam's Quantum Question: Reconciling Muslim Tradition and Modern Science.


Muslim-Science.Com is an ambitious new website, which describes itself as “an online journal & portal dedicated to the revival of scientific, and science-based innovation and entrepreneurial culture in the Islamic World.”
The website is the brainchild of Dr. Athar Osama, who acts as the manager and coordinator of the Editorial Committee. There is also an Advisory Board, which consists of eminent scientists, innovators-entrepreneurs, policy-makers, and science journalists from the Islamic World and elsewhere.
On his own website, Dr. Osama tells us a bit about himself: “an engineer by my first profession, a technology and innovation policy consultant by the day job, and a reformer (I’d like to believe!) at heart. I have a PhD in public policy with a specialization in science, technology, and innovation policy from the Frederick S. Pardee - RAND Graduate School for Public Policy in Santa Monica, CA.”
Why this (ambitious) website/portal? The rationale is presented on the portal in the following paragraph:
In recent times, the discourse about science and innovation in the Islamic World has hovered between absolute rejection of religion, on one hand, to blind embrace on the other. It has also been theoretical and conjectural falling short of empirical rigor that science itself demands. The mainstream (western) scientific and innovation media does not provide enough coverage to emerging trends in the Muslim World. Muslim-Science is dedicated to the revival of science and science-driven innovation and entrepreneurship in the Islamic World by creating a space for an informed, inspiring, and unbiased dialogue about Science, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship in the Muslim Lands as well as important, but often overlooked issues of science, religion, and society in the Islamic World.
We are further told that “Muslim-Science.Com is designed a platform for a dialogue among Muslims and between Muslims and other communities about the state of science and technology in the Muslim World and the influence of Muslim faith on the former.”
Three main lines of discussion are highlighted: 1) the role and place of Islam in the rise, decline, and (hopefully) revival of science in the Muslim world; 2) the importance and effect of social, cultural, political, and economic factors on the enterprise of science and technology in the Muslim world; 3) the need to provide coverage, encouragement, and mentoring to emerging trends in the Muslim world. Muslim-Science.Com thus aims at providing both rich information to its readers and space for constructive and critical examination of all these issues and factors.


So, as one can note, there is a large spectrum of issues and topics that the project aims to address, ranging from “science-driven innovation and entrepreneurship” to “science and religion” questions. Indeed, one of the earliest series of articles that have been posted is one by Dr. Osama himself titled “Islam Analysis”; nine installments have appeared, on topics such as “S&T ministerial body [COMSTECH] needs a revival” and “Muslim countries need a ‘forward bloc’”.


How does the project propose to pursue its ambitious program? First it invites readers to contribute articles to the Editorial Committee. Secondly, and more importantly, it has posted a “Call for Action” where a more specific plan is outlined, including joining a mailing list (‘Muslim-Science’), a “Muslim Scientists, Technologists, and Innovators’ Network” of professionals and graduate students from around the world, people who are interested in actively pursuing tasks such as:
  • Helping identify research opportunities, fellowships, funding, etc.
  • Developing linkages between expatriate researchers and those working within Muslim countries;
  • Carrying out a dialogue between scientists and innovators from within the Muslim world and beyond about the state of science and technology in Muslim countries and how it could be improved.
I would like to also point out a series of “country spotlights on science and innovation” that Muslim-Science.Com plans to run; indeed, the first such special issue, looking at Malaysia, has just been published.
It includes:
- Profiles in Leadership: Dr. Omar Abdur Rahman, Mahathir's Science Advisor for more than 15 years
- Malaysia: Time to put plans into actions by Natalie Day and Amran Mohammad
- Science Policy: The Right Model for Innovation - Royal Society's Atlas Report on Malaysia
- Science: Malaysia's Sputnik Moment by Dato Zakri Abdul Hamid
I haven’t read much of this, but I plan to do so and to come back to this here in a few weeks.
This first special country spotlight will be followed by others, including Pakistan later this year and Egypt, Jordan, and Qatar planned for 2012.
There will also be a series of “Special Topical Issues” designed to bring into focus some of the most critical issues and capabilities across the Islamic world.
I wish this ambitious project the fullest success, and I hope it will be joined and supported by many people, anyone interested in the state of Science in the Muslim world, whether on conceptual grounds or for practical reasons.

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