Women need to be empowered in science if nation’s R&D capacity in Qatar is to improve, says QNRF researcher
Qatar is succeeding in attracting R&D talent but not proving as successful at retaining it, a leading researcher has told the Qatar Sustainability Summit.
Dr. Hisham A. Sabir, who is the Director – Technical, at Qatar Foundation’s Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF), spoke on the topic of ‘Challenges and Opportunities in a Research Ecosystem’ at the two-day event that brings global and regional industry specialists, policymakers and practitioners together to discuss the promises and pitfalls of sustainability.
And he told the audience: “One of the factors for the low retention level of capacity, as opposed to attracting it, is encouraging contracts that favor management positions over a research career.”
He also said there are very few active R&D departments in industry and public sectors outside academia in Qatar, adding: “This means there are fewer opportunities for researchers to move outside academia in national research institutes in order to further research careers.”
Dr. Sabir believes efforts to address these challenges must begin with putting Qatari nationals first, saying: “Qatari nationals represent a more permanent and committed element of the research capacity – they should be prioritized.
“However, this should not be done at the expense of competitiveness as quality is as important as quantity in terms of capacity, or even more so.”
He also emphasized how competition in obtaining research grants is critical to honing the skills of young Qatari researchers, and helping them prepare for successful careers in research.
“In this regard, QNRF has prioritized Qatari researchers and students, and devised funding programs and mechanisms within existing programs dedicated to Qatari researchers and students,” Dr. Sabir explained, adding that it is crucial to increase retention by empowering women.
Women are not underrepresented in higher education, and attracting them to a career in research is simply common sense.
“This is very important. Young Qatari women outnumber men in higher education – in some cases the ratio is 3:1. These young female graduates are a rich capacity resource which we cannot afford to ignore.
“Women are not underrepresented in higher education, and attracting them to a career in research is simply common sense. However, we need to facilitate women’s contribution to science by recognizing human and societal conditions, and provide, for example, facilities such as flexible working hours, and part-time and remote working options, while accommodating their maternal and other family commitments.”
We need to be re-inventive and think outside the box in terms of defining and employing capacity.
As part of its role in supporting a thriving research culture in Qatar, QNRF has recently devised an exchange program to facilitate the mobility of researchers, which will provide learning opportunities for researchers through international collaborations.
“We need to be re-inventive and think outside the box in terms of defining and employing capacity,” said Dr. Sabir. “This is an essential element to build and sustain adequate levels of research capacity.
“I can say with confidence that our research capacity is extremely high caliber and comprises finely-trained and experienced researchers and technical experts in all fields. However, it is also transient, made up predominantly of expats, and is confined to academia and national research institutions.”