x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Lack of role models an obstacle in enticing Emiratis into R&D

University vice provost for research says young Emiratis want to make money 'the fast and easy way and research and development isn't that'.

ABU DHABI // A lack of role models remains an obstacle in enticing young Emiratis into research and development, experts warned yesterday.

"They want to make money the fast and easy way and research and development isn't that," said Dr Sehamuddin Galadari, the vice provost for research at United Arab Emirates University.

He is one of around 200 Emirati academics at the university, making up about a quarter of its teaching staff. "The role models aren't there and we've not been able to pass on the message. I had good role models in my family but they [young Emiratis] are influenced to get into business."

He said schools were vital in cultivating a taste for innovation and inquiry.

Professor Tod Laursen, head of Khalifa University, said: "Students need to grow up in a culture with mentors and in an environment that stresses innovation, doing problems that haven't been solved before."

He blamed the culture of rote learning, which often continues up to university level. "That is not an effective mode of learning for students, nor does it inspire them to think in that creative way we are discussing."

He said offering good, well-paid career opportunities was also vital.

Dr Fred Moavenzadeh, head of the Masdar Institute, said that for many young people it was more important to be making a difference. He said: "Of course it's important they get compensated, but for the majority of people here, money is important but it's not the main objective. They want to make a difference and this is part of a system of change."

* Melanie Swan