Spotlight: Shamaa (Arab Educational Information Network)
Tadween Publishing puts the spotlight on Shamaa: Arab Educational Information Network, as part of Tadween’s campaign to highlight individuals, groups, and organizations who play a role in the open access movement and knowledge production and preservation.
Tadween (T): Could you explain the concept behind Shamaa and how it began?
Shamaa (S): A group of educational professors dreamt of an education database in the Arab world similar to ERIC, and then this dream came to life. In 2007, the concept of Shamaa started as a pilot project. Some organizations like Ford foundation, UNESCO, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, and many others believed in Shamaa and funded this initiative, to start with Shamaa as an independent NGO with an Arab Board of Trustees as per decree no. 3323, promulgated by the Lebanese government on 3 February 2010.
Shamaa provides specialists and stakeholders free access to the educational studies produced in Arab countries, and those available through international organizations with whom Shamaa has signed agreements and makes all studies available on the Internet. Shamaa also accepts submissions by researchers on education in the Arab countries produced worldwide. It indexes peer-reviewed articles, Master's theses and PhD dissertations, books, reports, and conference proceedings starting from 2007 in Arabic, English, and French. The database includes bibliographic information, abstracts and, when available, the full text of educational studies.
Shamaa aspires to be the main reference for researchers and others concerned with educational knowledge in its capacity as a documentation database for all sorts of intellectual educational production about Arab countries and by Arab researchers.
T: According to Shamaa's website, one of the organization's objectives is to disseminate information on educational work to researchers, faculty, students, and universities. How does Shamaa accomplish this?
S: Shamaa disseminates information on educational work mainly by its free and open access database, its website announcements and its newsletter. It also has a team of experts that organizes sessions in universities, to help students, professors, and teachers to develop their research skills in order to be able to find the studies they need in Shamaa's database. In addition, Shamaa participates in book fairs and conferences.
T: What is Shamaa's stance on open access to information in the Arab world?
S: As an open access database, Shamaa definitely encourages and advocates for open access to information especially for public universities who do not have the funds to enroll in commercial databases. Unfortunately, the notion of open access is still not popular in the Arab world as it is often associated with the fear of a loss of copyright. This is a challenge that Shamaa is well aware of and its team is trying to work against all odds to encourage researchers to use open access databases.
T: How can students, faculty, and researchers access Shamaa's database?
S: Students, faculty members, and researchers can access Shamaa's database via http://search.shamaa.org without any obstacle (subscription, username-password, etc.). Shamaa is as well listed among 27 different library catalogs, blogs, and websites in Arab and foreign countries.
T: Could you tell us about Shamaa's trilingual thesaurus and how individuals can access it?
S: Shamaa’s thesaurus is unique and the only trilingual thesaurus in the education field in the Arab world. It is Shamaa’s pride and joy.
The Education Thesaurus consists of a list of concepts in the field of education. It is a subject search and retrieval tool used by researchers to find a document or a number of documents dealing with the same subject or related subjects. In addition to that the thesaurus not only provides access to the requested information but also indicates to the researcher, due to its hierarchical structure, the various inter-related subjects, whether broader and more general in scope, or narrower and more restricted.
- Researchers can browse the thesaurus through our website as mentioned below
- Type http://search.shamaa.org in the browser,
- Select browse.
- Choose “Descriptors – Thesaurus” from the drop box list,
- Enter your search term.
- We are currently updating the thesaurus for the reason that there are always new concepts that should be added with the evolution of learning.
- Our thesaurus could be used as a reference tool by any educational organization or professors or libraries.
T: Shamaa and LAES recently organized a conference hosted by the Lebanese American University entitled "Graduate and Postgraduate Programs in Education in Arab Universities: Quality and Added Value." Could you explain the outcome of the conference and what it discussed?
S: Shamaa and LAES chose this subject “Graduate and Postgraduate Programs in Education in Arab Universities: Quality and Added Value.” Shamaa’s involvement in organizing this conference is in line with its mission to contribute to building an educational knowledge base in the Arab region. In face of the existing scarcity and poor quality of research in the region, Shamaa viewed this conference as an opportunity to bring together members of the research community to discuss issues related to the quality of graduate and postgraduate programs due to their central role in preparing future researchers as well as providing research based knowledge to the field of education. The conference raised many issues related to educational research in graduate and postgraduate programs. Some issues relate to the general structure of each program offered, both in its curricular requirements and organization, other issues relate to formal frames, databases, and plagiarism, further issues relate to research trends and their quality, etc. The format of the conference generated rich discussions and brought to surface many other issues during the sessions and deliberations at the conference.
The discussions addressed the condition of the graduate and postgraduate program in the Arab world, and brought in a comparative angle as experiences of practice from Western countries like Germany, Canada, the United States, and Finland. The conference was unique compared to others in the region, in that it brought in the experience of students from different universities and of different countries, such as the Lebanese University and LAU in Lebanon, Cairo University in Egypt, Jordan University in Jordan, University of Paris Decartes (Paris V), and Ecole Normales Supérieure - Cachan from France.
The conference was a platform for questions, answers and discussions, and the presentations are already posted on its webpage. Moreover, the conference papers, testimonies, models, and deliberations will be published in the conference proceedings and disseminated to the educational research community in Arab countries.
T: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about Shamaa?
S: The achievement of Shamaa’s mission and vision is the responsibility of all the members of the education and scientific communities. To ensure the sustainability of its services, Shamaa looks forward to the support of community members, be them students, faculty members, faculties of education, university libraries, information specialists, centers for educational research, publishers of educational scientific journals, universities, the Association of Arab Universities, ministries of education and higher education, ALECSO, ISESCO, etc.