MAKKAH: The recent launch of an online platform for research chairs at universities in Saudi Arabia is an innovative step, experts said, that aims to enhance the management of research and innovation at Saudi universities and encourage the development of innovative solutions, so that the nation can more effectively benefit from the progress they bring.
Research chair positions, reserved by educational institutions for top researchers whose work can advance the frontiers of knowledge, are relatively new in Saudi Arabia. But they are already having a positive effect on the research community in terms of fostering talent, encouraging innovative research and helping to develop the leaders of the future in a number of academic fields. This in turn is benefiting the wider education system and culture in the Kingdom.
Last week, Mohammed Al-Sudairi, the deputy minister of education for universities, research and innovation, officially launched the Research Chairs Forum during an event at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University. Experts and researchers from 40 universities and colleges joined 70 research chairs from Saudi universities and other guests at the launch of the platform.
The participants discussed the development of a model for efficient funding strategies for research chairs at universities and reviewed the role they can play in addressing important national development issues.
“The organization of the Research Chairs Forum comes in the context of the Ministry of Education’s constant interest in maximizing the role of universities and developing their research facilities, through research chairs,” Al-Sudairi said during the launch.
“They are a bridge with the community to keep pace with its (the community’s) requirements and meet its developmental needs, thus achieving the aspirations of the leadership, in line with the priorities of Saudi Vision 2030”.
Remarkable progress has been made in recent years in improving the standards of research in Saudi Arabia. This is reflected in the fact that in January, the Kingdom ranked first in the Arab world and 14th globally in terms of publishing research about COVID-19, according to the Web of Science website. More generally, 65 percent of all scientific papers published by universities in Arab countries were from institutions in Saudi Arabia.
In addition, Saudi universities have made progress at the international level in the field of innovation. Three state universities ranked among the top 50 on the list of universities granted patents in 2020, in terms of the number of patents registered in the US, according to annual figures compiled by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.
King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals ranked 14th globally last year, according to data released by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which highlights the vital role of patents in university research and innovation.
King Abdulaziz University ranked 33rd, an improvement of 50 positions in just one year. King Saud University was in 45th place.
Ahmed Al-Thobaity, supervisor of the Office of Scientific and Academic Chairs at Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University in Dammam, told Arab News that Saudi universities have made great strides in recent years in the area of scientific research, in keeping with the aims of Saudi Vision 2030, and that the significant progress made by several universities in global rankings is testimony to their successes.
He said the launch of an online platform for research chairs reflects the interest of the country’s leaders in supporting science and scientists. He added that he hopes it will be provide a starting point for enhanced cooperation among researchers from all the country’s universities to help build effective scientific partnerships between institutions to improve the quality of scientific research.
Al-Thobaity said that the platform is particularly important for promoting the sharing of expertise between well-established universities and those founded more recently, thereby reducing gaps in the quality of scientific study that can exist between older and newer institutions.
“This platform is also important in establishing a comprehensive database for research chairs that helps researchers in the country and acts, for media platforms, like a source to promote the Kingdom’s great advances in science, in accordance with numbers, data and accurate statistics,” he added.
“Another benefit is establishing lines of communication between the private sector and universities, to channel financial support to the most modern findings of science in various fields.”
Manal Abdul Aziz Al-Shadde, a former dean of scientific research at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, predicted that the new platform will indeed help to enhance cooperation between researchers and universities.
“Universities take private initiatives to promote scientific research between researchers from different universities,” she told Arab News. “However, this platform is the culmination of these initiatives, with the Ministry of Education’s systematic work, with all its technical and human potential.”
Al-Shadde said the language of science has no boundaries or borders and aims to serve all people.
“We aspire to make this platform a pioneer in enhancing cooperation, sharing expertise and optimizing human and financial resources and equipment,” she added. “We will soon see the great impact of this platform in supporting our research efforts at our universities, institutions and research centers.”