Develop research culture in the Arab Middle East

By | March 4, 2014

I wrote a letter to the Editor of the Communications of the ACM that was published in Issue 3/Vol 57 (March, 2014).

It was only 2002 when I first knew ACM even existed. I was preparing my master’s thesis in computer engineering in Iraq. I was so amazed I thought of ACM members as movie stars. Due to many circumstances, I did not have the honor of joining as a member until 2010. Having received my bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. in the Middle East, I have always seen a gap, a large one, between the way research is conducted there on one side and in Europe and the U.S. on the other. This feeling has been enforced whenever I get a rejection letter for a paper sent to a big computer science conference or journal. Sometimes, unfortunately, reviewers have mocked and even ridiculed instead of provided a constructive review. This happened in the early stages of my own research, and, as I learned later, to many of my colleagues as well. In most cases, when I look at Arab scientists who have published in reputable conferences and journals, I see author names of those who have either studied abroad or are working abroad, many very successful with outstanding research records. What does this say?

The Arab Middle East needs a cultural revolution in terms of research, especially in computer science. The research mentality here is quite different from other areas of the world. This is not to say it is not scientifically valid, just that research here is conducted in a different way that needs to be formalized to conform to international standards. Many researchers in the Arab world have amazing potential. Unfortunately, that potential is not being unleashed until they go abroad.

I sincerely hope ACM takes the initiative in helping spread a valid and concrete academic research culture in the Arab world. We all aim for the same thing—improving the quality of life for ourselves and for the coming generations. The lack of tools and research culture should not prevent Arab computer scientists from contributing to the development of all humanity.

The letter can be found in here.

All feedback is welcomed.