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Rector, King Saud UniversityIn the first meeting of the King Saud University’s Directorate of International Cooperation and Scientific Societies, KSU Rector Abdullah Al-Othman commented on the directorate’s successes and achievements, but emphasized that its work has just begun.

“[The successes] only fulfill the aspirations of the past,” the Rector said. “Our present and future aspirations have not been fulfilled yet. We must acknowledge that we have yet to meet our goals for scientific societies.”

Dr. Al-Othman said the University has 50 scientific associations, but emphasized that only nine are deemed active and efficient while the others are operating below standards. He suggested that one of the major problems is the lack of unified leadership. His assessment was based on his days with the KSU Ministry of Higher Education, when he formed a committee to determine why some associations splintered or failed.

The conclusion, he explained, was that individuals had been placing their personal goals ahead of their association’s purpose, therefore developing ineffective associations instead of capable and productive institutions.

“Today in KSU, no association should be allowed to continue unless it proves its merit by comparison of against clear standards, objectives and clear and concrete results,” he said. “And if students do not join an association, then it is a fault of the association itself. A successful scientific association should take part in programs enriching the skills and knowledge of our students.

“The learned associations in advanced nations act decisively in preserving the rights of its members of their specialty and upgrading their related programs. We should match world scientific associations and I see that scientific associations should be more attuned to their national dimensions and service to their nations, and this will not happen until a new structure has been put in place.”

Dr. Al-Othman said that to meet the challenge, a five-year plan will be put in place, one underscored by a more appealing incentive policy. He has asked Dr. Ahmad Al-Ghadeer, supervisor of the Directorate of International Cooperation and Scientific Societies, to amend the DICSS prize structure, one in which the top three associations will receive 300,000, 200,000, and 100,000 riyals, respectively. The funding will be provided by the DICSS association and not taken from the University budget.

Meanwhile, Dr. Al-Ghadeer announced that the DICSS has adopted an accelerated pace in all domains and is charting unexplored areas which is why the association is gaining on KSU’s quest to satisfy meet its goals. According to the DICSS director, new rules, regulations, and e-services have been introduced to enhance the societies’ performance and scientific productivity.

Dr. Al-Ghadeer said the meeting’s intent also included the opportunity to introduce societies and associations and allow them to exhibit their work, provide workshops supervised by local and international experts, generate dialogue within the associations and societies leadership. Among the host of international experts attending were David Barker, past president of the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Ireland; Nick Campbell, managing editor of Nature Magazine; Bernard Aleva, managing director of Engineering Publishing, Elsevier, a world-leading publisher of scientific, technical, and medical information products and services; and Dan Santos, heads of scientific publications for MacMillan.

Dr. Barker, a world-renowned physician and professor who pioneered the theory linking fetal malnutrition to chronic adult diseases. Bernard Aleva’s Elsevier and King Saud signed an agreement in 2010 to provide access to a series of scholarly journals from Saudi Arabia, an arrangement initiated to improve and accelerate dissemination of research from this region.

“We are here today to discuss how learned associations, scoieties, and individuals communicate to consolidate a knowledgeable society,” Dr. Barker said. “I have been to countless countries in 20 years and found Saudi Arabia among the most respectful of science and scientists.”

Eight associations were cited the first day including the Saudi Dental Society, guided by the society’s president Dr. Ahmed M. Al Kahtani and KSU faculty, which received 100,000 Saudi Arabian Riyals (SAR); the Saudi Orthopedic Association, chaired by Dr. Hazem Al Khawashki, KSU’s associate professor of orthopedics receiving 75,000 SAR; and the Saudi Heart Association, led by its president Dr. Hani bin Kamal Najm, awarded 50,000 SAR.

The Saudi Ophthalmological Society, the Saudi Pharmaceutical Society, the Saudi Thoracic Society, the Saudi Pediatric Association, and the Saudi Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery were also recognized.

A second series of awards were presented in the category of ISI-indexed journals of scientific societies were awarded, with the top prize going to the Journal of Saudi Chemical Society, led by board chairman Dr. Daifallah Al-Dhayan and editor-in-chief Hassan M. Al-Hazimi, both KSU science professors.

The remaining recipients were runner-up Saudi Chemical Society, represented by editor-in-chief Dr. Ali H. Bahkali, KSU faculty member; professor of medicine Mohamed S. Al-Hajjal; Arabian Journal of Geosciences, represented by society chairman, editor-in-chief, and KSU faculty member  Medicine, represented by society president and KSU Dr. Abdullah M. Al-Amri; and 'Injury' –journal of the Saudi Orthopedic Association – represented by Dr. Hazem Al Khawashki, chairman and editor-in-chief and KSU faculty member.

Twenty-four societies participated in an exhibition to introduce their service and research activities, with three receiving special recognition: the Saudi for Agricultural Sciences, the Saudi Society for Geosciences, and the Speech Pathology and Audiology Association.

“We are here today to discuss how learned associations, societies, and individuals communicate to consolidate a knowledgeable society,” Dr. Barker said summarizing the meeting. “I have been to countless countries in 20 years and found Saudi Arabia among the most respectful of science and scientists.”