Science in 2011: revolutions and disasters

, by Science and Development Network (SciDev.Net)

Science and technology can seem remote from the unfolding dramas of the world but they were never far from the front line in the first months of the Arab Spring.

When revolution broke out in Egypt’s Tahrir Square in January, scientists were there in force, helping to plant the seeds of change. When dictatorship was replaced by a move towards a more democratic system of government that openly encourages debate and dissent, and is more committed to meeting the social needs of their people, science began to germinate in Egypt and elsewhere.

Thus, the swift announcements in Egypt of the planned construction of the new Zewail City of Science and Technology, of an ambitious science spending plan and, later, of a national research network. Scientists in Egypt also felt they could speak out against what they saw as inappropriate development.

And, in reformed Tunisia, plans were announced to boost its science and technology with a US$16.5 million project.

Events during next year , particularly in Egypt, may provide a case history in the links ― or otherwise ― between greater political freedom and greater support for science.

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