Dr. Abdulla Al-Kamali
Qatar National Research Fund, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, held the National Scientific Research and Innovation Week 2021 (NSRIW) earlier this month. In the week-long festival of scientific exploration, innovation, and learning, more than 1,500 students from 184 public schools participated. We sat down with Dr. Abdullah Al-Kamali, Education Outreach Expert at Qatar National Research Fund, who has been closely involved with the NSRIW since its inception, to learn more about the festival and how it is helping school students in Qatar become active participants in Qatar’s growing scientific and research ecosystem.
Can you please explain the concept behind the NSRIW and how it came about, and what it aims to achieve?
We wanted to promote research culture at an early age among students in Qatar in both private and governmental schools so they have a solid understanding of the basics, methods and ethics of research when they go on to high school and from there to the undergraduate level. Along with giving them this foundation, we also wanted to encourage students to explore careers in the research and academic fields to build research culture in Qatar and ensure it has a steady supply of human capital to realize its dream of becoming an international destination for research, development and innovation. And it is not only about research but also innovation and promoting a hands-on approach in our students. This event helps us bring together students through different competitions and also lets us combine our efforts with various stakeholders to bring a unique festival of scientific exploration and learning for our students.
This event has now been going on for more than a decade, can you tell us how has it evolved over the years?
We first started this initiative in 2009 with the launch of the Secondary School Research Experience Program (SSREP) and have been organizing it since then in different shapes and sizes. In 2015, we joined hands with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOEHE). Before that, there were different programs being offered by different entities in Qatar for school students and the goal with launching this platform was to bring our resources, activities, and efforts together to further advance our shared goal - promoting STEM education and research among the school students of Qatar.
Joining all our efforts helped us develop the National Science Research Competition (NSRC), which has the same criterion for evaluation and selection as the International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s leading science competition for school students held annually in the United States. This helps us identify top talent to represent Qatar in competitions around the world.
This year, there is an addition of ‘Innovation ‘in the title, can you tell us more about this change?
Almost four years ago, we got an invitation to send our students to participate in the International Invention, Innovation, and Technology Exhibition held annually in Malaysia. This event focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship. We have been sending our students to this competition and they have been performing exceptionally well. Therefore, we decided to have an added focus on Innovation as along with preparing our students for the ITEX competition, the participants of NSRIW will be able to learn more about innovation and entrepreneurship.
What is your favorite competition or activity during the NSRIW?
For me, all the competitions are very special. From the perspective of Qatar National Research Fund, since our main focus is on the research side, the NSRC is the main competition for us under the banner of the NSRIW. We have as many as 800 projects applying to participate in the NSRC alone and this should give you an idea of how important this competition is. It is more than a competition though, our goal is to help the students learn and push themselves to explore challenging ideas and develop innovative solutions to complex problems and judging by the caliber of the participating students, I can confidently say that we are fulfilling our aims.