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Dr Wyatt R. Hume
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Dr Wyatt R. Hume

Dr. Wyatt R. (Rory) Hume is Executive Director of Education, Training and Development, Research and Development Division, Qatar Foundation. His mandate is to help promote human capability in all areas related to the research and development needs of Qatar using the resources of the Foundation.

Hume is a former Executive Vice President and Provost (Chief Academic Officer and Chief Operating Officer) of the University of California system of ten campuses (Berkeley, UCLA, UCSF, UCSD, UCD, UCI, UCSB, UCR, UCSC, UCM) and three national laboratories. He also served concurrently as the UC system's Vice President for Health Affairs. He had previously served as Executive Vice Chancellor of UCLA, then as President of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Following his retirement from the University of California in 2008 he served for four years as Provost of the United Arab Emirates University.

Q: Your title at QF is Executive Director of Education, Training and Development, what does that entail exactly?

A: Its primarily to make sure that the resources of the Foundation are well used in the development of research capability at the graduate student level within Qatar. I have two main day-to-day responsibilities. One is the oversight of the Qatar Science Leadership Program, which is a very important investment in the future of Qatar's research capability. Young people from Qatar, mostly extremely capable Qatari nationals, are selected by us and supported at the Masters and Doctoral level, usually outside of Qatar - with the intention that they will come back and work inside the institutions of QF on completion of their studies. So that's a primary responsibility, and one we take extremely seriously. Another responsibility is to help develop graduate programs inside of Qatar, and to recruit the best possible people from anywhere in the world to come to Qatar to study and work as graduate-level researchers seeking their PhD degree here.

Many people think that being a research graduate student is a benefit to the individual, and in some senses it is. But for a research team and a research enterprise, research graduate students are an integral part of their success because they bring new capabilities, new ideas and new creativity. Its a universal finding across the world that research teams with the best graduate students are the ones who are the most creative. And there's little doubt that it is the graduate students who make that creativity. So bringing a brilliant graduate research student to a team or to a country is a benefit to the research team and the country.

Q: In order to develop this environment of excellence in research capabilities, what do you think are the three most important factors facing Qatar over the next few years?

A: To attract the excellent students, we have to have superb facilities and working and living environments. That's very important. We have to have superb scientists for them to work with and they and everybody else have to see Qatar as an attractive destination in every sense. A place that is supportive of open enquiry and creativity - somewhere that is a comfortable and exciting place to live. So I think it's these three things that are the major things. The Foundation is doing a superb job at creating that sort of environment.

Q: What first attracted you to Qatar and Qatar Foundation? 

A: I was very impressed by the accomplishments of the Foundation that I saw. Before I came here I was working in the UAE and I could see, almost every day, that the Foundation, through Qatar National Research Fund, and through the educational activities of the Foundation, which are particularly evident internationally with the WISE conference and QNRF's activities. From the outside I could see that good things were happening in Qatar and when I was approached by the Foundation I was very interested in joining the team, first to find out why it was working so well, and second to contribute to those accomplishments in the future.

Q: If everything goes according to plan, how do you see the research environment blossoming here?

A: Well, within five years we will have several thousand additional scientists working in the institutions of the Foundation - the three existing ones and, potentially, a fourth in the social sciences. I am hoping that there will be several thousand research scientists and at least a thousand graduate students with them, working in Qatar, in areas related to Qatar's future needs in economic diversification, health and security in the broadest sense - meaning educational attainment, cyber security, food security, water security, all of those things.

So thats what we hope to see within the Foundation. We also hope to see our partner universities in Qatar getting stronger and stronger. HBKU and the branch campuses on one hand, as well as Qatar University, College of the North Atlantic-Qatar, University of Calgary in Qatar - we hope that all of those will be significantly stronger. They've already been very positively influenced by Qatar National Research Fund and its good stewardship of the process of awarding research funding. I can see those benefits already. Qatar University is a much stronger university now than it was five years ago because of QNRF.

So I'm hoping for two things. One, the growth of a really strong nucleus of focused researchers in the Foundation's research institutions, with their graduates students being highly creative and the increasing strength of our university partners in Qatar. Then Qatar, in a very short period of time, can become an extremely strong player internationally in research and development, social improvement, economic diversification. Both for Qatar, and the region, and the world.

Q: Qatar has a very unusual environment in that the relatively small population plays host to universities, research institutions, funders, and publishers all under the same umbrella. Is this a unique experiment in your eyes, or has this been achieved elsewhere in the world to date? 

A: I certainly don't think its a replication. Qatar is driven by a desire that other places have, but the solution Qatar is forging needs to be tailored uniquely to Qatar's history and its social and economic circumstances. Qatar is a very new country, and fortunately at the moment it has very strong resource base. This enables it to do things that other places can't do - and to do them faster. But its natural that it will do them differently. The construct of the Foundation is unique. Qatar National Research Fund is unique, even though it has similar processes to other funding agencies elsewhere. It's unique in the system it has set up to promote partnerships between Qatar research entities and others elsewhere. That's the unique construct. The institutes are unique. The branch campuses are unique. I think what Qatar is doing is trailblazing, and its very impressive. It will also be of benefit to other people in other countries as they study what is happening here.

Q: The high-end of the academic scale seems to be well covered for the future. Is there anything QF and QNRF can do to ensure a healthy pipeline of suitably qualified nationals who will be able to benefit from these opportunities?

A: Qatar Foundation is already doing a lot. We can all examine what we are doing and look at the effectiveness of what we're doing and improve on it. But QNRF is working very well with its research experience programs with secondary schools. The QSLP teams are working with primary and secondary science teachers to inspire students in science. HBKU is also active in these fields. We all need to speak to each other and avoid duplication. But I agree that the areas of learning in relation to enquiry need to be constantly supported and enhanced. A significant portion of our budget is related to helping teachers to prepare students better for careers in the enquiry-based professions. It's important for young people to know that it's OK to ask questions. It's not only socially acceptable, but its also of benefit to society that people enquire and seek solutions.

Q: The Annual Research Conference is to be held soon, and will revolve around the Grand Challenges. Do you have a particular Grand Challenge which is close to your heart? 

A: They are all extremely important, but the one that I think will benefit society greatly is mobility and safety. It is extremely expensive in terms of human lives and in terms of opportunity costs, lost time, lost productivity. The mobility issue within Qatar needs to rigorously addressed using engineering on a grand scale. I don't think that the nation has yet used all the resources that it could bring to bear to make this a model city for traffic, mobility and safety. This could be vastly improved and I think that system science and engineering could make a great contribution here.

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