16 Jun 2020   |   International News

Across the Arab region, COVID-19 has scrambled scientists’ plans

From Science|Business partner Al-Fanar Media: a look at how the pandemic has affected Arab researchers

This article was published by Al-Fanar Media, a not for profit publication dedicated to covering Arab education, research, and culture. Read the full article on the site of Science|Buisness partner Al-Fanar Media here

Many scientists in the Middle East have repurposed their expertise in fields as diverse as nanotechnology, air pollution and population health to focus on the coronavirus pandemic. Many have also used their “lockdown time” to catch up on administrative tasks, write up articles from data they already have and are beginning to make plans to reopen their laboratories.

Research facilities usually had to close down under lockdown rules in numerous countries, meaning scientists, like many office workers, were unable to get into their workplaces.

But many academics launched new projects from home to apply their expertise to tackling COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and measure the ways it is impacting day-to-day life.

“It’s delightful to see the number of scientists who got on board to see how they could help,” says Susu Zughaier, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Qatar University.

“Researchers don’t have to be medical experts to have something to contribute in these times,” says Zughaier. “Everyone’s efforts are the blessing in disguise to have come out of COVID-19.”

A change in the air in Beirut

In Lebanon, Najat Saliba is a professor of chemistry at the American University of Beirut who studies the regionwide issue of urban pollution (See a related article: “An Arab Researcher Seeks Solutions to Urban Pollution.”) She originally used the lockdown to play catch up with administrative tasks before realizing the virus wasn’t going anywhere fast.

“The lab work slowed down at first and then came to a complete stop during the peak,” she says. “However, our desk work continued where analysis of lab results, paper reviews and write-ups were intensified.” Read more.

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