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Saudi Arabian nanotechnology: it’s different

Nanotechnology institutes are usually approved by a government research agency, university, or CEO, and funded by that agency, university, or corporation. Not so in Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Arabia plans to set up a nanotechnology institute. The proposal has been approved by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, according to Dr Abdullah Al Othman, rector of King Saud University (KSU)…Al Othman said that Crown Prince Sultan, deputy premier and minister of defence and aviation, has donated SR30 million [US$8 million] for the recruitment of top research scientists from all over the world.

It’s like traveling back in time to read an announcement like this — to a time when kings and princes still ruled the world. Overall, I prefer today. —Christine

20 Responses to “Saudi Arabian nanotechnology: it’s different”

  1. Jiro Says:

    i’m just thinking…research scientists from where ?

  2. Christine Peterson Says:

    Good question. From wherever research scientists would be willing to move to Saudi Arabia, I suppose. Not women scientists, presumably, who might like to — for example — drive a car, or be able to work with their male colleagues. —Christine

  3. Alex Says:

    I don’t imagine any Israeli Scientists, or even Jewish, for that matter. No other opnely religious scientists because the practise of any other than Islam is prohibited in the Kingdom.

  4. Alan Dawson Says:

    Well, there are a couple of American people working in Saudi Arabia. There is a very good percentage of the top American oil expertise there, just for starters, attracted by the challenges and the best salaries in the world, not to mention great living accommodations. Some people definitely don’t like the, er, social restrictions, but thousands and thousands of Americans and other nationalities overlook them or bear up under them because of the challenges and rewards.

    Shame everywhere can’t be exactly like Anus, North Carolina — but it can’t. SOME people hate that, others deal with it, still others love that other places are different and get on with hugely productive, exciting lives.

  5. Sam Hall Says:

    Not a Jewish scientist nor a scientist of any religion other than Islam who wishes not to hide it.

  6. M. A. George Says:

    Eight million dollars? Wow!. There’s a blow struck for science–that’s about what a member of the Saudi Royals spends on his annual summer vacation to Switzerland. Why is this worthy of praise, or even comment?

  7. Kevin Says:

    Gee, maybe as a result the Arab/Islamic world will receive its very first patent.
    Probably not.

  8. Tatterdemalian Says:

    Oh come on, who wouldn’t rather be king of a dark age than a mere citizen in a golden age? The quality of life is about the same, but you’d be able to inflict so many more sadistic torments upon the peasants around you, with no chance of being jailed for it, and a significantly lower chance of being killed by terrorists.

    Of course, we can’t all be kings (or nobody would be, like the societies today), so some of you will have to be downtrodden peasants. No, not me, you. See, my multiculturalism allows me to make statements like that, and you’re the ones being arrogant if you question me.

  9. Crossroads Arabia » Blog Archive » Saudi Arabia to Enter Nanotechnology Quest Says:

    [...] This article from Khaleej Times is causing some consternation among US bloggers, though why I really can’t tell. Nanodot, which features news on nanotechnology, has a post: Saudi Arabian nanotechnology: it’s different, favorably cited by the big-foot of bloggers, Instapundit. But the piece only says that in the rest of the world, nanotech research is directed by ‘government research agency, university, or CEO, and funded by that agency, university, or corporation.’ And that’s exactly what’s happening here, except that what’s being announced in the news report is that ‘a government research agency’ is what’s being established; no technology is being promoted or researched. [...]

    Response to Crossroads Arabia: The Crossroads Arabia post, like Makiko below, seems not to get the central point — what is being highlighted in our original post is who controls the wealth and power of Saudi Arabia. It’s not “Saudi bashing” to point that out.

  10. will Says:

    and of course, no Christian or Jewish scientists.

  11. Brian Says:

    I think you can also rule out Jews.

  12. The Snob Says:

    This is why I always laugh at these plans to build “world class” research institutions in the middle of nowhere. It’s hard enough getting someone to move from, say, MIT to RPI. On the whole I’d have to say that the KSA is pretty high on my list of “places to die before I see.” OTOH I could see something like this making headway if it was in a place like Dubai.

  13. Makiko Says:

    What a ridiculous and culturally insensitive remark (coming from an American, of course). Most people in the West would agree that monarchies are an anachronism . And yes, the human rights and women’s rights situation there is appalling- but why does it matter who provides the funding for a nanotech institute? And, like it or not, some cultures work differently (Iraq anyone?). Besides, I didn’t here you comment when a research institute in the UK gets named after the Queen, or the King of Sweden presents the Nobel Prize.

    Response to Makiko: The reason that it matters who provides the funding for a nanotech institute is the same reason that it matters who owns and controls the oil wealth of Saudi Arabia. When a research institute is named after the English Queen, or a King of Sweden presents a prize, it’s symbolic, not because those individuals have extreme power or control over their country’s natural resources. –Christine

  14. GK Says:

    The scientists would be from India, Malaysia, Iran or Turkey. They are paid quite a bit – a lot of expats do go live in Saudi Arabia, even if they have the choice of moving to the West.

  15. Frank Says:

    My college house mate, a chemist who finished his PhD at MIT, spent several years serving as a professor in a Saudi unieversity. I think it was this one:

    http://www.kfupm.edu.sa/kfupm/about/about.asp

    His position was terminated in favor of a Saudi national who had just finished a PhD at some equally prestigious US graduate program. The Saudis definitely have some domestic scientific talent, and have had little trouble hiring foreign researchers either. One wonders where this idea that a dearth of talen would pose a problem for the Saudis comes from?

    Incidentally, his wife, who was working on a PhD in Ancient Near East Studies at Brandeis, chafed at the Saudi restrictions on women, but dealt with it by spending most of her time on archeolgical digs in the Mediterranean.

  16. Roger Godby Says:

    A few years ago I befriended a Gulf resident who had completed his PhD abroad. He had toyed with the idea of going back to the Gulf (but not Saudi–too strict) but eventually dumped it because, he said, nobody there does anything or produces anything; yes, he’d earn a good income and have a pleasant relaxed life, but he knew his productivity as an engineer would shrivel to zero.

    When nothing is expected or needed, nothing is done.

  17. Mohammed bin al-Haram Says:

    I’m pretty sure Holy Quran forbids the making of any device too small for Allah to see.

  18. Ben Says:

    The origin of money doesn’t taint it, you know – inherited wealth can be seen as an unfair privilege or an opportunity to do positive things. I congratulate the Prince on donating to nanotech research, rather than to “defence and aviation” for example.

    Sure, we’d rather the new institute was set up under a different social regime, but funding science and innovation is historically a good way to help social changes along.

    Response: Hi Ben. I agree with you on inherited wealth. It can do great things. In this case, though, the wealth of the Saudi monarchy is not just inherited, and we can question whether they should be getting so much of their country’s ongoing natural resources income. Also, in this case, the origin of the money does taint its use; for example, it affects whether women will be allowed to join the main research team. Thanks for commenting! –C

  19. Makiko Says:

    Before you are mixing apples and oranges, let’s be clear: the lamentable situation of women in Saudi Arabia is not due to the country being a monarchy but because it’s an Islamic state. Not that I support the idea of a monarchy, but there is much wrong with the way you criticize it.

    Firstly, coming from a country where the wealth distribution is as distorted as in the US (1% of the population owns 33% of net worth but about 12% of the population live below the poverty line; which is the most unequal wealth distribution in any Western democracy), it is quite ironic that you point your finger at others, even if their wealth distribution is much more skewed (and you can lump all monarchies and dictatorships into that group). Without being a socialist, you could easily criticize the wealth distribution, and “control of wealth and power” in the US as well. Why do you feel you have to single out Saudi Arabia?

    Secondly, what is the difference of someone being born into a very wealthy US family, who didn’t have to earn his/her money and is able to easily donate $10 or $20 million for a research institute and someone being born into the Saudi royal family doing the same?

    And lastly, it’s obviously easy as you do from far away – have you ever been in the region? – to criticize the form of government in Saudi Arabia and “who controls the wealth and power” and that “we can question whether they should be getting so much of their country’s ongoing natural resources income.” But it’s much harder to come up with a better solution that has a realistic chance of working. That Western-style democracies don’t seem to work – and can’t be externally imposed – in the Middle East is amply demonstrated by Saudi Arabia’s neighbouring countries. I would be curious to know what your solution would be?

    Response: (1) Because it’s worse. And hey, we criticize various entities here (including the U.S.), not just Saudi Arabia. (2) Because the wealthy person’s family isn’t holding onto political power using a threat of physical force. (3) Great question! Whoever can answer it deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. ;^) —C

  20. Rich Corporal Says:

    I’ve been checking your blog for a while now, seems like everyday I learn something new :-) Thanks

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