Mouhannad Malek, a young Syrian researcher studying in Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, is obsessed with spreading science among the public in the Arab world. He wants to start with complex issues of science from interesting research papers and distill them down to a format where someone with no prior science knowledge whatsoever would be able to understand.
He started the “Syrian Researchers” page last year on Facebook which was quite successful, which has over 13,000 likes now, where he explains science papers in a simple, easy to understand way. “When I write an article to publish it on this page, I try to read it to my parents, who don’t know anything about science. So if they understand it, I publish it. Simple, but it works,” says Malek.
More recently, Malek has launched a YouTube channel where he explains new science papers to a layperson audience in Arabic – probably a first of its kind. The topics are diverse – ranging from the effect of drinking diet soda to sleep deprivation and stem cell research. Malek contends he opted to use videos because Arabs mostly prefer to watch television rather than read. This way, he is able to offer them science knowledge in an exciting format with the click of a mouse.
While Malek has been posting a new movie every two weeks or so, he is increasing the frequency to twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays. While it is currently a one man show, several other scientists have contacted him showing interest in joining the project and generating similar videos. “I asked them to shoot something and to speak with a simple language, this is my red line. I am waiting for their trials.
While there are over 40 volunteers now helping across the website and Facebook page, Malek still handles the YouTube channel alone. “My problem is technical; I don’t have any professional software to help me so I am learning as I go. And on top of being a scientist from 9:00 to 6:00, when I get back home I start to become an actor, animator, editor and director.”
He does not want to stop at YouTube, however. Malek would one day like to expand his project into a full-fledged science channel on television. He hopes he can generate interest in science and compete with other mainstream channels by offering science in a simple, fun and engaging manner, making it a contender for the time people spend in from of the television. “I am not talking just biology; I am talking about everything – biology, geology, physics, economy, art, architecture, music, etc.”
The channel he envisions would be profitable to the investors, while part of its revenues would go to a charity that supports scholarships for students in the Arab world to study overseas “in order to create a new Middle Eastern scientists generation,” he explains.
“I hope that one day, this YouTube channel would reach every single connected house in the Middle East. I hope really that we increase the knowledge of our people. I hope that people would ask questions, not just reacting passively. I hope by doing what I do, I can make science and culture entertaining,” says Malek.
It’s a worthy endeavour, and one much needed in the region today. Meanwhile, you can watch the latest video that Malek had posted on his channel below: