QScience: Behind The Scenes

Here is a short video illustrating life ‘behind the scenes’ at QScience. It introduces in an informal context the people who work to edit, market and publish our journals! We are small and enthusiastic team based in Doha, Qatar, and this video shows a little bit more of what goes on when you decide to submit your work or subscribe to our journals!

 

Conceived, directed and edited by Michael Greer, a summer intern here at QScience. She is currently studying English and Philosophy at Cardiff University.

To learn more about Qscience, visit QScience.com.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/QScience
Twitter: https://twitter.com/QScience
Instagram: qscience_com

A new feel to QScience Mobile

If you have recently browsed through QScience.com using your mobile device, you might have noticed a new feel to the website. QScience.com uses Atypon’s Literatum™ as the publishing software for its portfolio of scholarly open access journals, and with the latest Literatum release (14.1), there have been some positive changes to the QScience.com mobile experience.

With Literatum for Mobile 3.1, you will be able to seamlessly browse QScience.com journals and content. Another nice update is the look and feel of the article landing page. You should be able to read full article text in HTML, besides easily accessing the PDF file.  Interestingly, I found myself reading the full text article on my mobile device rather than search for a way to access the full site, as I have done on many previous occasions.

QScience Mobile also offers a personalized browsing, searching, and reading experience. Users can now easily customize their own home screen by choosing items from the side panel with this new update. They should then be greeted with content from their favorite journals or book whenever they are signed in to QScience.com on a mobile device. Moreover, when signed in, users will be able to share content directly to their favorite social media channel. QScience.com is accessible for all users with Android and iOS phones and tablets. As with the previous version, you do not need to register or install an app, simply visit QScience.com via your mobile device.

We are very pleased with the latest Literatum release from Atypon, especially on how it affects the presentation of our platform on mobile devices.  We also hope that our users will be happy with these changes and will continue to use the mobile interface to receive the latest content from QScience.com.

qscience_mobile

QScience Mobile Functionality

A QScience Movember: Prostate cancer research highlights

Movember is an annual month-long event which involves participants growing their mustaches to raise awareness of prostate cancer (and other male cancers/illnesses). According to Wikipedia (relax this is a blog post not an peer-reviewed academic paper), Movember aims to increase early cancer detection, diagnosis and efface treatments). I have had a fully grown mustache every since I moved back to Bahrain/Qatar, and I think it is somewhat futile to shave it and let it grow back this November (as it would only take 30 minutes to grow back, see YouTube video below). Instead, I thought  to highlight some of QScience.com‘s content on prostate cancer.

movember-blog-585

 

1. The following are five conference proceedings from the Qatar Foundation Annual Research Forum which have a direct focus on prostate cancer in the region as well as proposals for novel therapies.

Genome-wide association study of prostate cancer in Arab populations: Identification of three genomic regions with multiple consecutive prostate cancer susceptibility loci.  Shan et al., Qatar Foundation Annual Research Forum Proceedings: Vol. 2012, BMP71 Abstract

Personalized peptide-based vaccine design for prostate cancer immunotherapy. Arreadouani et al., Qatar Foundation Annual Research Forum Proceedings: Vol. 2012, AESNP13. Abstract

Biosensor to identify novel compounds with anti-prostate cancer activity.  Abou-Gharbia et al., Qatar Foundation Annual Research Forum Proceedings: Vol. 2012, AESNP8. Abstract

Identification of novel anti-apoptotic signals in prostate cancer stem cells.  Sastry et al., Qatar Foundation Annual Research Forum Proceedings: Vol. 2012, BMP55. Abstract

PCA3 molecular urine test: Development of an easy and cheap assay of a potential use in the diagnosis of prostate cancer.  Al-Rumaihi et., Qatar Foundation Annual Research Forum Proceedings: Vol. 2012, BMP80. Abstract

2. The following articles are from the Journal of Local and Global Health Science. Whereas, they do not solely focus on prostate cancer, they do discuss it in the context of circadian rhythm disruption and use of arsenic as a therapeutic agent:

The two opposite facets of arsenic: toxic and anticancer drug. Florea and Büsselberg. Journal of Local and Global Health Science,Volume 2013.3, 1 Abstract

Disruption of circadian rhythm increases the risk of cancer, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. Shanmugam et al., Journal of Local and Global Health Science,Volume 2013.3 Abstract 

Enjoy reading the articles! (and for those who are growing mustaches, good luck!)
Alwaleed Alkhaja

 

Author Workshop Announcement: ‘Organizing a scientific research paper for publication’

In collaboration with the Department of Global and Public Health and Writing Centre at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, QScience.com will be delivering a writing workshop, entitled ‘ Organizing a scientific research paper for publication’. The workshop will serve an introduction to the different parts of a research paper and will cover:

1. What are the different types of academic papers?
2. Introduction to each section of a research paper with a discussion of good practices
3. General tips for writing an academic paper

A research article (Christos et al., 2013) from the Journal of Local and Global Health Perspectives will be used a working example during the workshop. Copies will be given to registered attendees; the article can also be downloaded by clicking on the following link: http://www.qscience.com/doi/pdfplus/10.5339/jlghp.2013.4

The workshop will be presented by Alwaleed Alkhaja PhD (Commissioning Editor at QScience.com)

Date: Sunday, November 10, 2013
Time: 2:30pm to 3:30pm
Venue: Lecture Hall 4, WCMC-Q
Please RSVP to raa2021@qatar-med.cornell.edu
For more information, please call 4492-8389

Qscience Workshop: WCMCQ November 2013

Astronomy comes to Qatar

Beep. I got an email a couple nights ago telling me that I have been finally moved from the waiting list and now would be able to attend the keynote lecture by Professor Lord Martin Rees at the 1st Doha International Astronomy Conference, taking place from 10-13 February in Doha, Qatar. I arrived at the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) much earlier than the recommend time and received my ‘Public Guest’ badge. Walking towards Auditorium 3 among other members of the public as well as scientists, officials, and about one hundred primary school students, I could not help but feel like my 7-year-old self. I was as excited as the day I first picked up a book on astronomy and discovered the solar system, comets, and the Milky Way.

astrony qatar2

 

The 1st Doha International Astronomy Conference was organized by Dr. Khalid Al-Subai of Qatar Foundation and Dr. Martin Dominik of the University of St Andrews. Dr. Khalid Al-Subai is also the founder of the Qatar Exoplanet Survey (QES), which over the last couple of years has conducted a wide-angle photometric survey and successfully found two exoplanents (planets outside the Solar System): Qatar-1a and Qatar-2b.

Astronomy has come home  – Dr. Khalid Al-Subai (Qatar Foundation) 

As all the attendees took their seats, Dr. Khalid Al-Subai, took the podium and declared ‘astronomy has come home’. He then introduced the guest speaker, Professor Rees: Astronomer Royal and fellow of Trinity College and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge. Professor Rees started his talk, entitled ‘Planets, Life and the Cosmos’ with a brief history of Astronomy from the works of Galileo in the 17th century to the invention of the reflecting telescope by a ‘most unpleasant man’ from Cambridge, Isaac Newton. What followed was an interesting fast-track Astronomy 101 lecture. Professor Rees introduced the solar system and past efforts in space exploration.

With respect to extraterrestrial intelligent life, Professor Rees remains skeptical about stories in the press and from those sent to his email inbox. He believes ‘if we were to detect a signal from space, it would be very artificial’. Whether we do find life outside Earth or not, he believes that life will spread from Earth into space in the future, as humans will start exploring and settling in outer space. His talk was followed by an award presentation by Dr. Mohammad Fathy Saoud, President of Qatar Foundation.

After a brief coffee break, Dr. Khalid Al-Subai took stage again and announced that Qatar Foundation is planning to establish the Astronomy and Space Center in Qatar, which will host QES’s own observatory. He reiterated that Qatar has the opportunity now to engage in explorative science and to have a substantial share in a research field that is much underfunded. Dr. Al-Subai then announced that QES is expecting to discover three new expolanets by the end of 2013.

Astronomy research is coming to Qatar.

Whereas, it is still at its early stages, the project is indeed exciting and promising. And if I learnt anything from today’s talks it is that the next generation here can dream again. My astronomy dream died at the age of 9 (coincidentally with the time I tried to build a spaceship by using twenty-odd plastic and wooden chairs in my grandmother’s living room). I wish I had attended this talk when I was 7 years old. However, I am encouraged and do choose to believe that the inspiring messages from Dr. Khalid Al-Subai and Professor Rees have reached at least one of the future-astronomers sitting a few rows behind me.

– For more information about the 1st Doha International Astronomy Conference, click here .

– For more information about the Qatar Exoplanet Survey, click here.

The Science of Urgency–Reflections on COP 18

Outcomes of COP meetings are usually discussed in terms of policy and international buy-in to agreements. By this definition, COP 18 results were less than what were expected yet still a step forward. The Kyoto Protocol will continue on for a second commitment period, eight years on, yet it only legally binds a 15 percent reduction of emissions.  And while stocking the green climate fund by 2020 with the US$ 100bn promised is still high on the to-do list, it seems a tall order from developed nations still watching the dust settle on the financial crisis of last decade.

Yet, as Wael Hmaiden, Director of Climate Action Network International–the largest climate change organization of more than 700 NGOs–explained early in the proceedings: action taken at the policy level is one thing and the attention COP draws to the issues at hand is another.

In Doha, especially, this notion proved important as the meeting took place for the first time in an OPEC nation. Specifically, having a COP in a country that is deeply entrenched in a carbon-based economy did much to foster an information highway to the region, encouraging knowledge transfer on topics like energy subsidization, incentivizing renewables and designing smart cities as well as best practices for carbon capture. What’s more, it drew attention to the fact that residents in this region—with its low-lying populated areas, tapped water reserves and intensely-hot climate—are all-too familiar with the effects of climate change. It’s clear that people across the Gulf are eager to get involved and are starting get a hold of information that can help them assess the situation and do something about it.

Candid discussions around fossil fuel subsidization reform, renewable energy initiatives (namely Saudi Arabia’s unprecedented investment in solar energy production) and the release of the first ever ecological footprint assessment for the MENA region showed a solid effort on the part of the region to move swiftly on climate change. Yet side events (see previous posts) provided deep insight into how complicated this move is given local circumstances.

No matter where in the world you target, you first need to research and understand what exactly you’re looking at in terms of market viability, need for external funding, feasibility of setup and maintenance of any technologies, need for capacity building, issues of equity, and a myriad of other factors, not the least of which would be political makeup. Only then can you design an intelligent and workable plan of action. The types of events and discussions taking place under the UNFCCC are beginning to reflect the dire need for such R&D and knowledge transfer. But will this issue—of adapting climate change strategies—move far and fast enough from behind the shadow of the mitigation strategies and debates that have dominated discussions so far?

Adaptation vs. Mitigation

A debate around adaptation and mitigation has emerged as a key to understanding some of proposed strategies as well as the gridlock at policy level. Adaptation implies ground-level approaches to preparing for effects of climate change. Examples include shifting economies toward renewable resources, basing farming practices on more sustainable methods—including working more closely with meteorologists to plan crops and tapping into time-tested traditional land-use practices—and generally overhauling at every level to reduce climate impacts and prepare everyone for unpredictable conditions. Mitigation, on the other hand, implies directly targeting carbon emissions with policy to incentivize a reduction in fossil fuel use and carbon emissions (creating a side-effect shift toward renewables), as well as the promotion of techniques like carbon capture and storage.

Mitigation and adaptation measures overlap, especially when you consider that mitigation-based taxation and subsidization policies shed more attractive lighting on the renewable market. Yet the call for adaptation, to change the trajectory of developing countries toward a more sustainable one—vs. a follow-the-polluting leaders approach—is emerging as vital, because as more and more people move out of rural poverty and into the urban middle class, energy demands are only projected to rise, markedly.

Policy is now forming around terms of climate change funding for countries that can’t afford the R&D, implementation and maintenance of renewable strategies that work in their environments. These developing countries have so far depended on and suffered the brunt of effects from polluting technologies. For this reason, a UNFCCC  work program on loss and damage has formed, and the Green Climate Fund is under negotiation as a support mechanism for capacity building as well as technology development and transfer.

This COP resulted in continued support of the Technology Executive Committee, which is the newest initiative in UNFCCC aimed at chartering a way forward in terms of implementing effective and climate-friendly technology based on location. Key aims of this committee include developing strong communications with ground-level administrators in developing countries and devising ways to make investment in renewables attractive to private investors based on a long-term prediction of economic success in any given location. Part of this effort hinges on location-specific R&D. For instance, in Qatar, solar energy poses a technology challenge due to the scarcity of water and the amount of it needed to cool the units under unusually hot conditions. Alternative solar-based solutions and cooling technologies must be considered as research targets.

Adaptation technology platforms (as discussed in this post) have popped up to address the incredibly complex conditions on the ground. These data-rich, web-based portals allow access to information not only on the technology in use today but also on the important location-specific information that helps decision makers and investors see the feasibility of implementing any given strategy based on localized conditions—current market drivers, natural resource availability, economy, population, weather, capacity building requirements, etc.

Knowledge transfer has emerged as an essential and pressing concern around adaptation approaches and mitigation approaches alike. At COP 18, experts called repeatedly for more investment in research and publication of findings from developing countries. And now more than ever it has become obvious, the need for open access and open source databases to share findings and minimize duplicate efforts. Similarly, the green patent approach would make technology specs available in a third of the time.

On the mitigation front, the degree of investment into carbon sequestration methods depends directly on knowledge acquisition and transfer related to the most effective strategies to both store maximum carbon and clear out hard-to-reach oil and gas patches. This is not to mention the legal considerations around carbon leakage over time, the potential for which demands focused research and investment therein.

Research in Qatar is addressing many of the issues on the table at COP, some of which were covered here. And a partnership announcement with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research marked a strong step forward and commitment on the part of the host country.

The Science of Urgency

The issues on the table are the greatest humankind has ever faced and, while self evident in countless cases, are most provocative when backed by scientific research. Yet some government officials at COP and much of the general public are ill equipped, information-wise, to to comprehend the full extent of climate change, Hmaiden said.

“Climate change has been here for 20 years,” he explained. “So why didn’t everyone know about it 20 years ago. I am an environmental activist, and it took me seven years as in this role to fully understand what climate change is. Imagine the general public who are even farther away from this information. It’s very complex scientific information that doesn’t trickle easily to the public.”

This combined with the fact that climate change is not an attractive issue complicates the sense of urgency that needs to build around climate change, fast. In Sweden, Hmaiden said, the government has considered naming their ministry of climate change “The Ministry of Existence,” to raise awareness about the seriousness of climate change.

“It’s like cancer in your body; you have to treat it,” he said. “But if you fall down and you have a cut on your head and your head is bleeding, you’re definitely going to treat this more urgently than going to get chemotherapy to cure cancer. Cancer is more important than a cut, more serious than a cut on your forehead. But a cut on the forehead you prioritize in terms of action.

“And what’s happening in the world is that we’re facing one cut after another. We are in a constant state of stitching but we are forgetting that the cancer needs to be treated and that it’s growing. The more we delay, the more it will spread. At some point, whatever chemotherapy you do, it’s not going to be enough. So at some point we’re going to have to say I have to treat this cancer.”

Achim Steiner’s talk at the high-level panel on food security is worth a listen as he headlines with the fact that the UNFCCC’s role in part is to bring science to the policy arena. The UNEP Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Steiner’s urgent appeal for effective application of science and technology, to steer humans away from destructive and highly-entrenched modes of operation, is palpable.

Toward Greener Business Practices in MENA

MainA fast pace of development in the Gulf has taken its toll according to environmental experts. The region’s first ever ecological footprint atlas, put out by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), prompted authors to formally name it a “Survival Report.”

“Since 1979, Arab regions have experienced huge ecological deficit and it is increasing,” said Najib Saab, Secretary General of AFED, as he introduced a panel of representatives from companies who participated in a sustainability program.

“We cannot do this forever—use oil income to buy imports,” he continued. “The other consideration is the over-exploitation of natural resources. We are robbing future generations of their right to live.”

Saab explained that since ... every country in the region except Mauritania is at a resource deficit

Saab explained that from 1961-2008, every country in the region except Mauritania developed itself into resource deficit, according to findings through the Arab Forum for Environmental Development

Saab chaired the side event entitled The Role of Arab Business in the Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy, wherein representatives of big business and resources in the region spoke about their participation in a program designed to raise awareness and reduce environmental impacts–120 companies participated. The program entailed periodical sustainability reports specifically outlining mitigation programs and results.

“A lot of information needs to be addressed,” said Rashid Bin Fahed, the UAE’s Minister of Environment and Water, who provided more context on the region. “We need data to arrive at a better assessment of what we have.”

The UAE’s figures were initially off, Fahed explained, because unlike more closed systems where consumption is easier to track, the UAE is a trade hub for the entire region, and 90 percent of goods are re-exported, i.e., in transit rather than consumed or simply traded. Adjustments revealed actual consumption patterns, however.

“We found that 80 percent of our footprint is from carbon,” Fahed said. “We and other Gulf countries rely on carbon to generate energy … we initially lacked the means to develop sustainable sources for such commodities.”

Fahed said that the UAE is counting on Masdar City to test and customize renewable technologies, with an aim of deriving a significant amount (around 8 percent) of energy from renewable sources.

“Conservation is not a choice anymore,” he said. “We have to do it according to a standard, and a lot of awareness campaigns are underway. We believe that the green growth strategy will be the umbrella for the development of the UAE. We have the means to achieve it. We’ve already done a lot in the energy and transport sector.”

Steer describes the migration pattern of people, worldwide, to the city

Steer describes the migration pattern of people, worldwide, to the city

When the World Resources Institute (WRI) surveyed citizens around the world, asking if climate change was an urgent matter that demanded an immediate response, 50 percent of US residents, 60 percent of Europeans and 90 percent of Arabs said yes, Andrew Steer, WRI’s President and CEO said, mentioning that, unsurprisingly, 99 percent of small island state residents think along these lines as well.

“We’ve moved from an empty world to a full world,” he said, “and we are pushing the barriers … with a massive increase in the middle class, 800 million vehicles on the road today that could increase to 3 billion by 2050.”

With 70 percent of the human population projected to live in cities by 2050, Steer said urban environments have potential to be part of the solution or part of the problem. He cited Beijing as an example where the footprint of city residents is higher on average than that of those in rural China. In contrast, he said, the footprint of New Yorkers is smaller than that of residents living outside the city.

The topic of electricity and fuel subsidization echoed repeatedly throughout the side event rooms

The topic of electricity and fuel subsidization echoed repeatedly throughout the side event rooms; Steer suggested an overhaul of subsidies schemes to push demand and funding into renewables

In addition to suggesting a shift in taxation schemes to create a shift toward renewable development and a stop to subsidies on fossil fuel-based energy, Steer suggested an overhaul of business as usual at large companies in terms of assessing their impacts.

“We need to reset the compass in terms of measuring progress … it’s better to cut down quarterly reports so people have a longer-term view,” he said.

In the end, he echoed a common sentiment throughout these events calling for more investment in technology and collaboration. “It’s nice to stay up all night and argue [referring to the final days of COP, featuring round-the-clock policy negotiation], but we need to see something happen; we need to stop this zero-sum game.”

Raji Hattar, Chief Sustainability Compliance Officer at Aramex, an Arab-based provider of logistics, transportation and shipping services, spoke about sustainability measures the company has taken to cut down on resource consumption. The company–which involves more than 66,000 employees based out of more than 12,000 offices and operates in more than 240 countries, with a fleet of around 33,000 vehicles–has implemented many eco-friendly programs at every level of its operation, he said.

In addition to the regular generation of footprint reports, Hattar said the company has adopted strict standards around everything from vehicles (based on low emissions ratings) and printers (double-sided only).  He said that the ISO 14000 standards of environmental management and mitigation strategies are exercised from training to high levels of operation. Recycling and smart (degradeable and recycled/reclyclable) packaging are standard as well, he said.

Salabi describes the impact of awareness campaigns in addition to sustainable policies company-wide

Salabi highlighted the potential impact of awareness campaigns in addition to sustainable policies region-wide

Alain Saliba, speaking on behalf of Kharafi National, Kuwait, described measures the company is taking to reduce their environmental footprint, placing emphasis on awareness campaigns. As business development manager at Kharafi—which  specializes in infrastructure development around water, wastewater treatment, reclamation, solid waste management, oil recovery as well as facilities management across the MENA region—Saliba described an e-mail campaign based on repeated messages to all employees encouraging energy-saving practices around the office and home.

“You have to hit repeatedly with the information,” he said. “It’s as if you are tapping on someone’s shoulder, at first they are bothered but don’t turn around, but eventually, they will turn around and ask ‘why are you tapping me with this?’  That’s when the message gets through.”

Michael Nates, Director of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability at ACWA Power International, Saudi Arabia, gave an overview of the impact of subsidizing electricity across the MENA region (highlighting that every country in the MENA region is subsidized) and offered an alternate financial model wherein payment for electricity could be channeled toward solar power in Saudi Arabia. The goal, he explained, is to understand the impact of subsidies and then minimize them so that the system is tight and the market can decide the value of power, no matter the source. With this scheme, over time, renewables would prove advantageous.

Nates discusses an approach to subsidization that would drive development in the renewable market

Nates discusses an approach to subsidization that would drive development in the renewable market

Nates outlined the compelling case for renewable across the MENA region—if electricity becomes a paid commodity—stressing the financial viability of setting up the technology and implementing it through both public-private partnership and independent providers so that the cost is competitive. Saudi Arabia plans to invest US$ 109billion in solar energy systems—plans to finalize in 2013 and first farm to be operational in 2015 with a goal of covering 30 percent of its energy needs by 2030.

Considering that US$ 136billion was invested worldwide in solar in 2011, this move toward independence in the energy sector could potentially “spur the next wave of innovation and local capacity building in the region in terms of renewable energy,” according to Nate’s presentation. This is not to mention skilled and semi-skilled job market such an investment will create.