The Qatar Academy for Science and Technology has opened under the Qatar Foundation. How will this new approach be complemented from a research perspective?
We are excited about this new opportunity for our talented high school students, and QNRF is keen to develop new programs and expand existing activities to complement and support this important initiative. Our High School Research Experience Program (HSREP) will launch in April 2019 and provide great opportunities for students to learn research skills from scientists and researchers based in Qatar. Moreover, the Qatar STEM facility (STEM-HUB), a joint initiative with Texas A&M University in Qatar, will allow students to get hands-on experience in our specially designed workshops to develop their cognitive and practical skills. Through the STEM-HUB, we will be able to provide students with advanced equipment, guidance, and mentorship. In addition to these programs, we are reaching out to high school students in Qatar to participate in the FameLab's master class training for science communicators to develop their soft skills. Finally, students can participate in our competitions and activities in the National Science Research Week. The programs at QNRF are interlinked and complement each other. Therefore, if a high school student joins one of our programs—including UREP, GSRA, PDRA, ECRA—they will have various opportunities to benefit from our support until they become an accomplished scientist.
The country is seeing an increase in projects in industrial production. How has your National Priorities Research Program (NPRP) supported this?
This is certainly true and extremely gratifying to observe. QNRF has contributed substantially to the industrial boom that Qatar is currently experiencing. NPRP has evolved from its initial remit of capacity building in the domains of science and technology to a more focused approach of prioritizing research that promises impact and, most importantly, has commercial potential. As such, NPRP benefits and impacts Qatar's industry in multiple ways. First, it promotes projects of industrial relevance and implementation with industrial collaboration and/or co-funding. Second, it welcomes direct proposal submissions from the private sector. Third, it benefits active recruitment of industrialists to help set its research priorities and review the program's proposals and projects. Such involvement is proving beneficial to the industry in terms of ensuring that research remains industry relevant. Fourth, it helps with dissemination of the findings of NPRP projects through ROS events and by publishing and distributing their final public reports.
What is your assessment of the research community and culture in Qatar?
This is one of the most pleasing aspects of Qatar's research ecosystem and one that QNRF has contributed significantly to. Through its funding programs, its regulatory body of policies and procedures, and numerous avenues of communication with national researchers and institutions, QNRF has nurtured a thriving research culture. QNRF insists its applicants and awardee researchers and institutions observe the highest standards of excellence in all aspects of research, including ethical conduct, quality of publications, IP, quality of international collaboration, accuracy and transparency of reporting, originality, and feasibility of ideas, among other related areas. We designed a system of merit that rewards excellence and eliminates poor performance and misconduct. Furthermore, QNRF leads by example and subjects its own functions to a strict process of quality assurance. This ensures that our processes and results are transparent and robust and inspire our awardees and applicants to follow suit. Another example where QNRF has helped the establishment of a positive research culture is the creation of research offices in each of our applicant institutions. These offices regulate all aspects of research activity in the institution, including those outside QNRF funding. Finally, we regularly organize and sponsor numerous research events designed to disseminate research, promote networking, engage stakeholders, raise public awareness, and aid the creation of impact. All these contribute to creating a mature culture of research of the highest standards.