DOHA: The allocation of a $700,000 research grant to three foreign professors to study women entrepreneurship in Qatar has created a huge furore on Qatari social media with several people expressing shock and surprise at the spending of an astronomical sum on what they say is ‘a normal study’.
Allegations that one of the researchers had indulged in racism against Qatar and its expatriate workforce have added fuel to the controversy.
Northwestern University in Qatar announced on 25 January that its professors S Venus Jin and Jocelyn Sage Mitchell, along with HBKU Professor Mohamed Evren Tok, were awarded a $700,000 grant to study the obstacles and successes of women entrepreneurship in Qatar.
The grant was awarded by QNRF’s National Priorities Research Programme. QNRF is a member of Qatar Foundation.
“Entrepreneurship is a key component in Qatar’s National Vision 2030 and Jin, the lead principal investigator on the project, pointed out that the country’s interest in this sector has increased following three pivotal events,” Northwestern University in Qatar said in a press release.
Reacting to the report on Arabic and English Twitter, several people said the project could have been done by a research team at Qatar University for a much smaller amount and they are more qualified to handle a project of local importance.
“700,000 dollars for scientific research on women entrepreneurship? Is this a joke or true? Is the study of entrepreneurship considered a scientific project? If this is true, we are in a situation that does not bode well,” a Qatari citizen wrote on Arabic Twitter.
“Huge amount. I wish the amount was allocated to Qatar University. They are the one who can do this study in a way that suits the society and the economic situation,” said another.
Commenting below the news on Northwestern Qatar’s Twitter account, another citizen asked how this grant could be awarded to a person who has ‘contempt for Qatar’.
“Have you read this sarcastic announcement by NU? (One of the researcher’s) diary is not only full of linguistic mistakes, her hateful language reveals her racism and contempt for our country,” said a citizen, posting a screenshot of the diary in which she talks disparagingly of Qatar.
“I am sure there are many Qatari women that would be more qualified for the award,” wrote a citizen.
Marwan M Kraidy, Dean and CEO of Northwestern Qatar noted that this project reflects the important contributions that NU-Q faculty research is making to Qatari society.
“All of us are proud of the work of our faculty,” Kraidy said in the press release, “and this project is another example of Northwestern Qatar’s contribution to the Qatar National Vision 2030 initiative. We are grateful to QNRF for supporting this project and look forward to seeing the recommendations that will result from the research.”
As part of their research, the faculty will work with student research assistants to collect data through a series of focus groups and in-person interviews that are designed to understand the challenges and obstacles that Qatari women face when it comes to starting their own business.
Some of the topics that will be addressed include the motives of entrepreneurial endeavours, personality traits, family support, social pressures, network, and educational backgrounds.
Jin said: “The entrepreneurial scene as a whole has been growing in response to the 2017 blockade, which increased the demand for local goods and services. While at the same time, a global pandemic is reshaping how businesses operate and innovative solutions are entering the market.”
Jin added: “Finally, Qatar is preparing to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, one of the world’s largest sporting events that will bring plenty of new business opportunities.”