Remember that list that was published back in April which showed Lebanon as #5 in math and sciences education in the world and in the top 10 when it comes to its education as a whole? A lot can be said about that list. Inaccurate is one. Exaggerated is two. Taken out of context, however, might as well be the best description.
It’s a habit of ours, as Lebanese, to disregard the negatives in a study, regardless of its merits, and focus on whatever makes us happier about this country. Other data in that study showed that, when it comes to scientific research, Lebanon ranks so low that our contribution to the world of science is minimal at best. We are 129/144. Who’s first on that list? Well, Israel is. Call that list whatever you want, the discrepancy cannot be disregarded.
I recommend you check this great infographic that discusses the Lebanese academic situation at hand (link).
So how would you feel, as a Lebanese, when scientists working at one of your country’s leading institutions go to a symposium in the United States only to have their work attributed to Israel, not Lebanon? I’d be pretty furious. And that’s precisely what’s happening at the ASME/BATH 2013 Symposium on Fluid Power and Motion Control, which is taking place in Florida starting next week. You can check out the program of that event here.
If you go through the first few pages of that program, down to where they list what’s happening on Monday, October 7th, you’ll see that Lebanon has a slight contribution via the American University of Beirut. Not quite, though, because the following is what you see:
A quick search to look into the people to whom the research to be presented is attributed revealed that Aly Elmasry was a person who did some research at AUB that ended this past August (link). Going through the AUB student system reveals that Matthias Liermann is actually a professor at the American University of Beirut. His CV is also available on the AUB website though I assume it might be outdated (link).
As such, it’s definitely clear that this work was purely done at a Lebanese institute. It’s clear that the listing of Israel next to AUB on that program is not to signal some under-the-table dealings that were just uncovered. It’s a mistake that no one has noticed in order to get it corrected.
It’s easy to dismiss this as irrelevant. And there are certainly bigger things taking place daily, Akkar and the Syrian refugees as examples, that ought to be discussed. But I find listing AUB as an Israeli university as a big deal. Why? Because the attribution of a country to a university presenting any form of research means that the country from which that university comes from is important. Because having the institution that gives out the most research in our country taken out of our country, even if on paper, is damaging. Because research carried out at AUB, however simple it might be, reflects on the capacities of a Lebanese institution. Taking out the Lebanese of that institution matters.
It may not matter much to the scientists attending that symposium. They’ll look at that program, see that an Israeli university is presenting and say: “figures, those Israelis do good science.” But the problem is that the research to be presented is not Israeli. Those researchers are not Israeli. The university from which that university is coming from not only isn’t Israeli but isn’t allowed to have dealings with Israel. And, quite honestly, how unaware do you have to be to list AUB as an Israeli university?
I’d be up in a fit if I were either Liermann or Elmasry. I hope they’re trying to fix this.