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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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In the Pipeline

« Hope in a Drum | Main | Does Your Labmate Have the Hands? »

January 30, 2005

Welcome to the World, I Hope

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Posted by Derek

Although I generally don't comment on current political events here, I wanted to congratulate the Iraqis who voted in their election this weekend. From a scientist's point of view, it would be a fine thing if they (and the other countries in the region) could have their affairs in good enough order to join the research efforts that are going on in so many other countries.

You don't necessarily have to be a rich country to do some useful science, if you pick your targets well. Cuba, of all places, seems to have a pretty respectable expertise in biotech and vaccines. And (to be frank) the position of many Middle Eastern countries in the rankings of world science isn't due to lack of money. The Gulf States, for example, could bankroll some serious projects - but, for the most part, they don't. (I'm not going to comment on the large physics engineering project that seems to be underway in Iran!)

I'm showing my biases here, because I think that scientific research is one of the greatest endeavors of the human race. The more hands and minds we have working on the big problems, the better the chances of solutions. But the Middle East (broadly defined, and with the conspicuous exception of Israel) is a desert for science. Most of the countries in that part of the world are hardly visible in the scientific literature - in this PDF article, you'll see that this entire region (along with Africa) is completely ignored. In my field, I see occasional papers from Egypt and Iran, but that's just about it.

There are plenty of competent (and potentially competent) people in these countries - just look at what some of them have accomplished as expatriates. The social, economic, and educational problems in these countries are (among other things) a tremendous waste of human potential. We need it, they need it, and I hope that eventually it finds an outlet.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Current Events


1. The Novice Chemist on January 31, 2005 9:40 AM writes...

This would be an appropriate post to comment on the State Department's embargo (I think) on journals to some of those countries. I gotta say, it's not life or death whether people in Iran can get JACS. I'm usually not with ACS's political crusades, but this one seems reasonable.

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2. bago on February 1, 2005 6:24 AM writes...

Ah, that's the problem with magnet programs et al, they get hte talent to give their due to their sponsors. As a software engineer, I know many Indians who defer to the US on their patentable ideas.

The brain drain is predictable, yet inevitable.

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3. PharmaChemist on February 1, 2005 10:52 AM writes...

Here's an equally telling passage from Tom Friedman:
According to the 2003 Arab Human Development Report, between 1980 and 1999 the nine leading Arab economies registered 370 patents (in the US) for new inventions. Patents are a good measure of a society's education quality, entrepreneurship, rule of law and innovation. During that same 20-year period, South Korea registered 16,328 patents for inventions. You don't run into a lot of South Koreans who want to be martyrs.

The full article can be found at

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