Members of the FNC were left in the dark after a visit to UAE University to discuss research strategy and budgets did not yield any hard figures. The council’s education committee travelled to the Federal university, the country’s oldest, to learn about its current research funding needs.
They were shown two hours of presentations by faculty members and the head of the university’s four research centres and given a campus tour, but management did not reveal the research budget.
“Some things are not clear, we wanted to know what the budget needed for research,” said Dr Sheikha Eisa Ghanem, a member from Umm Al Quwain. “There were certain things that we wanted. They do a big show of their achievements [in the Arab world], but we don’t want that.
“We heard that some studies were not done because they did not have enough money.”
The university’s former provost had said that more funding was needed, but Dr Mohamed Yousif Baniyas, the current provost, has not. He said that about Dh4 million (US$1.8m) had been set for research equipment. But Dr Mona Al Bahar, an FNC member from Dubai and the chairwoman of the education committee, said the figure the provost gave for equipment was “not enough”.
“I am a researcher, and I know how much research needs,” she said.
“What about medicine and science? Sometimes one piece of equipment costs Dh1m.”
She said that if funding was an issue, then members would push strongly for an increase during FNC sessions and to the ministries. But when members left the university in the late afternoon, their questions had still not been answered.
“We need to know. If the budget is low, then we cannot move on to a knowledge-based economy.
“No research, no knowledge-based economy,” said Dr Al Bahar.
Dr Al Bahar said members would continue to push to find out the exact figure of the university’s research budget and would “tackle this issue until we get an answer”. She added that they would talk to the provost and the university chancellor again in a closed meeting.
Ahmed Al Jarwan, an FNC member from Sharjah, stressed the importance of research to tackle social problems.
He said Emirisation was important in the field and questioned why a non-national faculty member presented a study on national identity in the UAE – a “sensitive” topic. The faculty member told him that his Emirati partner in the study did not want to give the presentation.
Members also questioned whether national identity was something measurable.
The faculty member said the research was carried out following orders from the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. Dr Baniyas said the university was planning to launch new research centres in the next few years in energy and environment, food security, policies and strategy, sustainable economy and educational development.
Members will also visit Zayed University, Higher College of Technology and other national research centres in the coming weeks. After the visits, members will put together a comprehensive report on the state of research in the UAE. Recommendations for improvements will then be passed to the cabinet for approval. (The National)