Biomedical Research in The Arab World

In almost all basic and clinical specialties, and in spite of the notable gap between research output in high and low-income Arab countries in some research fields (Sibai et al., 2017), the research output of the Arab World lags far behind other regions (Bayoumy et al., 2016; Zyoud, 2016). You just need to learn that seven Arab countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Sudan) produced only 1,773 articles on cancer research in the period from 2000 through 2013 (Hamadeh et al., 2017). In sports and exercise medicine, contribution of the Arab countries constituted only 0.49 % of the global sport and exercise medicine literature (Fares et al., 2017). As a whole, the Arab World produced 189 article/ one million population which is estimated to be about quarter of the value of other world countries (Rassi et al., 2018).
It’s miserable and it’s not without cause. As noted by Romani et al., (2016), the weak infrastructure constitutes the main obstacle against research development. Another significant effect is related to lack of appropriate training and professional supervision. In their systematic review on ADHD research in the Arab world, Alkhateeb and Alhadidi (2016) highlighted the poor methods and procedures used that limited the value and generalizability of research findings. In the field of spine surgery research, Baeesa et al., (2017) also noted that poor levels of evidence characterized Arab research output which failed to achieve progress through 15 years.
The interesting study of El Obaid et al., (2016) addressed another important issue. They studied the public perceptions and attitudes towards medical research in a sample of United Arab Emirates citizens. The study noted fear of breach of confidentiality as the major concern of the participants. They recommended better research materials and more effective communication with the broader community to improve participation in clinical research. Of course, the cultural and societal characteristics of Arab communities are also involved. Even for Arab-Americans, one study identified notable barriers against community participation in research (Timraz et al., 2017).
Another remarkable hurdle that significantly affect the quality of Arab research output is inappropriate prioritization. In most Arab countries, the institutional research agenda is not based on clear concepts the consider the needs of the local communities or the capabilities of the research infrastructure. The studies of Al-Yateem et al., (2017), Jamaluddine et al., (2016) and Naja et al., (2017) discussed this point in school nursing, genetics and nutrition. They identified specific research gaps and suggested some new strategies. One elegant study highlighted the astonishing mismatch between disease burden of some clinical conditions and the published researches on these conditions (Albarqouni et al., 2018).
Probably, the notion that the international Arab immigration wave that was caused by the conflicts in Palastine, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen resulted in dramatic increase of published articles on Arab refugees (Sweileh, 2018) may sum up how and why the Arab World came to this point.
References
Albarqouni L, Elessi K, Abu-Rmeileh NME. A comparison between health research output and burden of disease in Arab countries: evidence from Palestine. Health Res Policy Syst. 2018 Mar 15;16(1):25. doi: 10.1186/s12961-018-0302-4. PMID: 29544498; PMCID: PMC5856204.
Alkhateeb JM, Alhadidi MS. ADHD Research in Arab Countries: A Systematic Review of Literature. J Atten Disord. 2016 Jan 21;23(13):1531-1545. doi: 10.1177/1087054715623047. PMID: 26794672.
Al-Yateem N, Docherty C, Brenner M, Alhosany J, Altawil H, Al-Tamimi M. Research Priorities for School Nursing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). J Sch Nurs. 2017 Oct;33(5):393-401. doi: 10.1177/1059840516671783. Epub 2016 Oct 2. PMID: 27698210.
Baeesa SS, Maghrabi Y, Msaddi AK, Assaker R. Quality of Spine Surgery Research from the Arab Countries: A Systematic Review and Bibliometric Analysis. Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:7560236. doi: 10.1155/2017/7560236. Epub 2017 Feb 21. PMID: 28316989; PMCID: PMC5339533.
Bayoumy K, MacDonald R, Dargham SR, Arayssi T. Bibliometric analysis of rheumatology research in the Arab countries. BMC Res Notes. 2016 Aug 8;9:393. doi: 10.1186/s13104-016-2197-x. PMID: 27501954; PMCID: PMC4977706.
El Obaid Y, Al Hamiz A, Abdulle A, Hayes RB, Sherman S, Ali R. Perceptions and Attitudes towards Medical Research in the United Arab Emirates: Results from the Abu Dhabi Cohort Study (ADCS) Focus Group Discussions. PLoS One. 2016 Mar 4;11(3):e0149609. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0149609. PMID: 26943636; PMCID: PMC4778844.
El Rassi R, Meho LI, Nahlawi A, Salameh JS, Bazarbachi A, Akl EA. Medical research productivity in the Arab countries: 2007-2016 bibliometric analysis. J Glob Health. 2018 Dec;8(2):020411. doi: 10.7189/jogh.08.020411. PMID: 30410737; PMCID: PMC6220353.
Fares MY, Fares J, Baydoun H, Fares Y. Sport and exercise medicine research activity in the Arab world: a 15-year bibliometric analysis. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2017 Dec 7;3(1):e000292. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2017-000292. PMID: 29259813; PMCID: PMC5728261.
Hamadeh RR, Borgan SM, Sibai AM. Cancer Research in the Arab World: A review of publications from seven countries between 2000-2013. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2017 May;17(2):e147-e154. doi: 10.18295/squmj.2016.17.02.003. Epub 2017 Jun 20. PMID: 28690885; PMCID: PMC5488814.
Jamaluddine Z, Sibai AM, Othman S, Yazbek S. Mapping genetic research in non-communicable disease publications in selected Arab countries: first step towards a guided research agenda. Health Res Policy Syst. 2016 Nov 10;14(1):81. doi: 10.1186/s12961-016-0153-9. PMID: 27832776; PMCID: PMC5103400.
Romani MH, Hamadeh GN, Mahmassani DM, AlBeri AA, AlDabbagh AM, Farahat TM, AlShafaee MA, Lakkis NA. Opportunities and barriers to enhance research capacity and outputs among academic family physicians in the Arab world. Prim Health Care Res Dev. 2016 Jan;17(1):98-104. doi: 10.1017/S1463423615000377. PMID: 26687846.
Sibai AM, Singh NV, Jabbour S, Saleh S, Abdulrahim S, Naja F, Yazbek S (a). Does published research on non-communicable disease (NCD) in Arab countries reflect NCD disease burden? PLoS One. 2017 Jun 2;12(6):e0178401. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178401. PMID: 28575065; PMCID: PMC5456081.
Sweileh WM. Global research output in the health of international Arab migrants (1988-2017). BMC Public Health. 2018 Jun 18;18(1):755. doi: 10.1186/s12889-018-5690-4. PMID: 29914447; PMCID: PMC6006754.
Timraz SM, Alhasanat DI, Albdour MM, Lewin L, Giurgescu C, Kavanaugh K. Challenges and strategies for conducting sensitive research with an Arab American population. Appl Nurs Res. 2017 Feb;33:1-4. doi: 10.1016/j.apnr.2016.09.009. Epub 2016 Oct 3. PMID: 28095999.
Zyoud SH, Zyoud SH, Al-Jabi SW, Sweileh WM, Awang R. Contribution of Arab countries to pharmaceutical wastewater literature: a bibliometric and comparative analysis of research output. Ann Occup Environ Med. 2016 Jul 3;28:28. doi: 10.1186/s40557-016-0117-0. PMID: 27382475; PMCID: PMC4932741.

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