There is no doubt that scientific research is the true gateway to economic, social, cultural and intellectual progress and that scientific, industrial and technological revolutions are the fruit of the accumulation of knowledge based on the foundations of scientific research.
If this were not so, our lives would be a matter of myth, magic and futile effort, in which underdevelopment would be reproduced on a large scale in all aspects of public and private life and where the value of the human mind would be hindered in the search for scientific solutions to the problems of life.
In this sense, scientific research is the organised process in which the researcher, whether an individual, a research institution, or a university, is dedicated to finding out the facts of a particular problem (the subject of the research) following an organised scientific method called the research approach. Suitable solutions or results that can be generalised to similar problems elsewhere are called research results.
Scientific research is the only way to know about the world in all its diversity and richness and to understand the real facts.
In our country, we cannot plan for the future without scientific research, since without it we cannot implement, follow up, develop and solve problems. Scientific research, in its broadest sense, extends to the collection and use of information in all the activities of life. It extends to individuals, groups and society. It is linked to organised and sequential steps to gather, analyse, and verify information for the purpose of answering a specific question, interpreting a relationship, or solving a problem.
This has made scientific research the foundation of civilised societies and the means they use to solve their problems and overcome their crises. Otherwise, everything becomes random, increasing the chances of failure, frustration, and confusion in finding solutions.
Hence, scientific research is a method for identifying and limiting the problems of society, determining their degrees of importance and the priorities and ways to deal with them, which is the only way to solve these problems in line with the potential of society and its capabilities and aspirations. It is the way to maintain the competitiveness of society in a fast-moving and evolving world. It is the way to diagnose and meet society’s continuous and increasing needs in all areas of life by developing methods of production, performance, materials and means in various fields, including agriculture and industry.
It leads to or promotes efficiency and the development of prudent policies to match society’s needs. In this way, it achieves high rates of employment for different social groups according to available professional and scientific qualifications and competencies. The following steps should be considered to promote the cause of scientific research in Egypt.
First, there is a need to work on linking scientific research to the problems of society and its industrial, agricultural and service sectors, private and governmental, and to solve them in order to serve programmes of comprehensive development. It should be noted that coordination is necessary here between research centres in universities and outside of them, in order to focus on qualitative research and prevent the repetition of research dealing with similar problems, which would result in wasting time and effort.
Serious efforts should be made to raise the awareness of private-sector leaders about the importance of scientific research and the necessity of solving various problems in order to contribute to raising the productive efficiency of these sectors. This would also increase the contributions of this sector to the financing of scientific research and get away from just relying on the government as a source of funding, as is the case in the countries of the developed world.
Second, there is a need for the establishment of a special budget for scientific research, whether within the ministries or departments of higher education and scientific research or outside of them, and for the allocation of balanced ratios of financial expenditure compared to gross output and of the budgets allocated to education and higher education. This is the practice of other countries throughout the world.
Third, national information networks should be established linking universities, research institutes and other relevant institutions, mainly commercial and industrial, in order to benefit from the experiences of the world’s leading universities in establishing virtual and real networks for research and development and between researchers and graduate programmes directed towards applied research for economic and social development.
Fourth, there is a need to develop electronic publishing and dissemination on a large scale and to encourage the various advantages of ease and availability of access. Publication should take place on a wide geographical scale beyond the limited scientific paper, and each research centre and the faculties of the various universities should have websites to develop the information available.
Fifth, the establishment of national scientific societies in accordance with international standards for the promotion of scientific research and cooperation with scientific and foreign societies should be encouraged. Academics should be encouraged to belong to international scientific societies and foreign research centres and to publish research in international scientific journals and to compete in international research.
Scientific missions abroad should be properly planned, turning them from personal privileges into scientific journeys for research and exploration. We must also choose the problems that the community really needs solutions to and send envoys in specialties that will benefit the progress of the country.
The absence of scientific research in our country is a major source of underdevelopment, and it causes a loss of time and a waste of money and a spread of corruption in various ways. It helps to spread ignorance about what is really happening on the ground.
It is no surprise that there is a competition to acquire the scientific knowledge necessary to improve living conditions and to bring about development elsewhere in the world. Many countries, particularly the US, seek to further their ambitions by acquiring knowledge because this is the gateway to everything from advanced technology and weaponry to a better quality of life.
However, research efforts by their very nature cannot be carried out in a vacuum. Support, funds, the construction of facilities, the training of personnel, and the creation of material and moral incentives are all necessary to help make intellectual production worthwhile.
*The writer teaches in the English Department at the Faculty of Arts at Menoufiya University
* A version of this article appears in print in the 31 January, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Scientific research and Egypt’s progress