Tunisians and Egyptians sought recently to transform their political culture. Their political economy has rendered it impossible to develop the scientific infrastructure needed to benefit from science. This paper shows that, by comparison with China and India, the Arabs in 1999 had a substantially higher level of university enrolment, per million inhabitants abroad and at home; and were ahead in per capita R&D output. Yet both China and India were able to take off with these resources while the Arab countries were left behind. The research output of the Arab countries increased about 50-fold over the period 1967–2010. Egypt, the GCC and the Maghreb are in the lead, and the leading countries are Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia. Yet Arab governments provide minimal support to R&D at 0.2% of GNP and few countries have recently increased support to R&D. The paper discusses their research output as well international collaboration.

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