(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Strengthening university infrastructure and capacity should be a priority if the country is to build a sustainable research environment, said Dr Mohammed Ebrahim Al Mualla, interim provost of Khalifa University.
Speaking on Sunday during the Abu Dhabi Higher Education Forum on 'Sustainable Alignment', Dr Al Mualla observed that universities in Abu Dhabi are 'still not mature' and are still in the process of developing their own programmes and recruiting quality faculty members.
"I think funding should be used for building capacity (first) rather than generating results (at this stage)," stated Dr Al Mualla, who is also the senior vice president of Research and Development at Khalifa University.
He added that universities should find ways to fill this 'gap' by providing incentives for faculty, developing infrastructure and investing in their curriculum, especially in PhD programmes.
In his keynote address, Shaikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research has pointed out that for universities to become 'hotbeds' of research, they require 'people and money.'
"Expanding and strengthening education and research in science and technology are especially costly endeavours that require a new level of funding and fresh commitments from all sectors of society," he said.
According to the 2012 report on the higher education sector carried out by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), Abu Dhabi is currently failing to attract world-class researchers because the research and development (R&D) environment is 'relatively underdeveloped and immature.' 'Abu Dhabi has limited R&D infrastructure, limited state-of-the-art research centres or laboratories and a few leading R&D scientists ... And the uncertainty of significant funds becoming available has hindered development of the sector,' the report stated.
'As a result, the Abu Dhabi higher education institutions (HEIs) tend to attract either entry-level or 'end of career' research academics. The most active 'mid-career' academics remain difficult to attract,' it added.
Presenting the results of a recent assessment of the state of academic research production in Abu Dhabi, Dr Rafic Makki, executive director of Planning and Strategic Affairs at the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), said that between 2006 to 2010, Abu Dhabi scientific publications have increased by 53 per cent per year starting from 624 in 2006 to 985 in 2010.
"While this is positive, our scientific production is still far from where it needs to be," he said, noting that the UAE research output remains low and 'the gap is actually widening' when compared to developed countries of similar size such as Greece, Sweden, Austria and Switzerland.