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Features & Commentaries roundup of 2012

While the political upheavals across several states in the Middle East have taken up the bulk of interest in 2012, there were exciting developments for science research and the science community in the region as well.

Over the past few days, we have looked back at the most important and most read science stories and research published on Nature Middle East throughout the year.

Following up from our roundup of science news from around the Arab world, here are the top most read features and commentaries of 2012, with diverse topics ranging from politics to the challenges of handling mental illnesses in the Arab world.

  1. A constitution not at peace with science: During Egypt’s often rocky transition to a democratic nation, science has been somewhat sidelined. When a first draft of a new constitution was presented to the public, scientists were worried it would negatively affect research in the country. Mohamed Abdel-Mottaleb, a scientist often involved in the country’s politics closely, gave a detailed critique of the constitution and all the dangerous pitfalls it held for research and education. The final constitution, which was ratified following a public referendum on the 26 December 2012, addressed many of the issues Abdel-Mottaleb raised here.
  2. Does the Arab world (not) need basic science?: As the Arab world actively seeks a renaissance to a long dormant culture of science, the question of basic science vs applied science has often cropped up. Many advocate a focus on applied research that would yield much needed economic growth. Nidhal Guessoum, author of Islam’s Quantum Question, argues that there can be no science culture without basic science.
  3. Reversing the brain drain: A Lebanese model: Every year, thousands of graduates of science and medicine schools in the Arab world flock to the West seeking better opportunities in renowned universities, depriving their countries from their expertise. Lebanese researchers Mohamed Sayegh and Kamal Badr suggest setting up local networks of expertise, linked with European and North American universities, to attract researchers back to the region, based on a model they are trying out in Lebanon.
  4. Dealing with mental illnesses in the Middle East: Psychiatric disorders are often misdiagnosed in the Arab world, and even when they are properly diagnosed, treatment usually are often developed in the West, ignoring the social intricacies of the region. Ziad Kronfol, a psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q) argues the region cannot ignore mental illnesses and longer and needs to develop its research and better train its physicians to address these issues effectively.
  5. NASA maps groundwater beneath Arabian deserts: NASA has made news all over the world this year for its successful Mars landing, launching an ambitious research mission there. Yet before the landing, the space agency worked with Kuwait to test equipment that will be used on Mars to look for water in the arid deserts of the Middle East. Using a low-frequency sounding radar, the research team produced the highest resolution maps yet of groundwater in the Kuwaiti desert.


This rounds up the list for our most read and shared commentaries and features from 2012. That’s it for our annual highlights – so stay tuned for what comes in 2013!

What was your favorite feature story on Nature Middle East in 2012? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!


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