A total of 650 researchers working in the 22 countries of the Arab League took part in the research, answering questions about the obstacles they face.
“The root cause is the environment that doesn’t support doing science”
Respondents were asked if they would like to move abroad for a permanent research position, with 91% of researchers responding ‘yes’.
Europe (68%) and North America (55%) were named by participants as the regions they would most like to emigrate to.
The total exceeds 100% because respondents who said they would like to leave were allowed to choose more than one answer.
The top five reasons cited by researchers for wanting to move abroad were more opportunity (80%), better research facilities (57%), more academic freedom (43%), better salary (42%) and to escape corruption and bureaucracy (37%).
“I’m not astonished because I know the situation in some Arab countries is bad for researchers,” Abdelhamid Nechad, an economist at the Ecole Supérieure du Commerce et des Affaires in Casablanca, told the publication.
The survey paints a troubling picture of research in Arab countries, despite large investment into universities in the region.
Over half of respondents (52%) said their university doesn’t provide free access to academic journals and 47% said they lack a reliable internet connection on campus.
84% of researchers said they spend their own money on their research.
“The root cause is the environment that doesn’t support doing science,” said Rana Dajani, associate professor at Hashemite University in Jordan, and a Radcliffe fellow at Harvard University.
“In order to do good science and to have the patience, and passion, and persistence, you need to be inspired by other scientists.
“It’s about attending conferences, exchanging ideas and listening to what’s new. This largely doesn’t exist here,” she added.
Al-Fanar Media reported that motivations to leave varied by country within the region.
In the Gulf countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, 81% of participants said they wanted to leave, compared to the regional average of 91%.
Conversely, 95% of researchers in the conflict-affected countries of Yemen, Syria and Libya, wanted to leave. These countries represented the region’s highest rate.
Noting some limitations to the survey, the authors of the report said that “because the survey’s focus was on the challenges that researchers in the Arab region face, people with negative opinions about the research climate in Arab countries may have been more motivated to complete the survey.”
Al-Fanar Media is a nonprofit news organisation launched in 2013 as a project of the Alexandria Trust.