At the invitation of the General Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS), Dr. Azmi Bishara, the first meeting of the committee of the "Arab Prize for the Encouragement of Scientific Research in the Social Sciences and the Humanities" was held on the morning of Friday April 8th, 2011 at the Arab Center for Research and Polciy Studies ACRPS (Doha Institute). The meeting took place in the presence of Dr. Bshara and all the committee members: Dr. Khaldun al-Naqeeb, Dr. Tahir Kan`an, Dr. Karima Krayyem, Dr. Kamal `Abd al-Lateef, Dr. Wajeeh Kawtharani, and Dr. Waleed `Abd al-Hayy.
Dr. Khaldun al-Naqeeb, ACRPS' Chairman, opened the meeting; and the General Director, Dr. Azmi Bishara, offered a presentation on the goals and the proposed procedural structure of this Prize, which was approved by ACRPS' Board of Directors. The Prize's objectives consist in the encouragement of young Arab researchers, inside and outside the Arab Homeland, in the pursuit of creative and original scientific research in questions and issues that are relevant to the future of Arab societies, their development, and their progression in the quest for unity, independence, democracy, and human development.
The Prize also aims at encouraging the exploration of applied research questions that stem from our reality as well as from an ethical and humane commitment to human values, emanate from a deep awareness of the problems that beset Arab peoples in their past and in their living reality; in addition to an understanding of these peoples' hopes and aspirations for better, happier, and more abundant lives.
Drs Bishara and al-Naqeeb noted that the Prize is not an honorary one that is offered for past accomplishments, but one purposed for the encouragement and motivation of researchers, and is granted to research papers that are specifically prepared in candidature for the prize, and on topics that are set by the committee; thus contributing to the formulation of an interdisciplinary agenda for Arab researchers in the Social Sciences and the Humanities.
They added that the Center wishes, in terms of methodology, for the Arab researcher to be on the cutting edge of methods devised in the Social Sciences and the Humanities, and to use prescient methodologies in his approach to research problems in the study of man and society. This should be done with an eye to the integration and complementarities of these methods, while taking into account the specificities of the Arab reality and its home-grown conditions. The research methods employed should be mastered and properly employed by the researcher in order to devise approaches that reveal and construct facts pertaining to Arab reality, paving the way for knowledge strategies that contribute to the design of sound policies, as well as to the deepening of the culture of Rights and the Arab citizen's ethics of individual and collective responsibility.
All committee members engaged in the debate, and modifications were made to the proposed structure and the number of prizes. It was decided that the Prize is to be awarded (in both fields: Social Sciences and Humanities) once a year in an official ceremony that takes place during the Center's Annual Conference held under the title of "the Arab Convention for Social Sciences and Humanities".
Eight awards are to be dispensed annually in the fields of Social Sciences and Humanities, four in each domain; two of those are reserved for veteran scholars and the other two for young researchers who are under the age of 40.
Each year, the Prize Committee specifies two research questions for candidates to choose from; they are expected to treat their question according to a methodology based on the formulation and testing of hypotheses in order to reach (after analyzing and documenting) and defend conclusions that originate from linking the theoretical portion of the study with its empirical one. The study must also feature prescience and an objective, critical, perspective on sources and data.
The total amount of awards to be dispersed annually by the Center will reach $220,000, with four prizes devoted to each of the two research questions:
1- Two awards for researchers, each worth $30,000
2- Two awards for young researchers, each being worth $25,000
It was also decided that, for each subject, five judges from among the reputed specialized scholars will be appointed to read and evaluate the papers. It was also decided that the Prize's research subjects for this year will be:
1- Policies of development in Arab countries and their effect on employment opportunities
2- Identity and the language of instruction in Arab countries
The Center will soon issue an announcement inviting researchers to enroll for candidacy, which will include the eligibility requirements.
Dr. Khaldun al-Naqeeb was elected Chairman of the Prize.