Research Groups at SQU are composed of teams of specialized individuals who conduct research in specific areas of scientific inquiry. They address important social and economic issues and explore new areas of knowledge to advance. The research and innovative activities that Research Groups at SQU engage in directly contribute to the realization of Oman’s sustainable development objectives.
When asked about the impact of Research Groups on the university’s research output, Dr. Rahma Al-Mahrooqi, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Postgraduate Studies & Research, stated, “Sultan Qaboos University encourages the formation of Research Groups featuring academics and researchers with varying but interconnected specializations and disciplines. These groups bring together diverse ranges of expertise which are brought to bear on important, and often quite complex, social, economic, and cultural issues.”
By supporting the formation of Research Groups at the university, SQU is joining the ranks of many of the world’s leading universities where these groups are often at the forefront of cutting-edge research projects and initiatives. Many of the top universities in Europe, North America, and Australasia boast Research Groups engaged in a wide-range of discipline-specific and multi-disciplinary interests in both the natural sciences and humanities. Like SQU, these universities fully comprehend the value of Research Groups in helping drive institutional research and innovation, in addition to connecting senior researchers with newer members of their fields and contributing to knowledge generation and dissemination. Subsequently, many of the universities that house Research Groups offer a wide range of support for their work.
Dr. Rahma Al-Mahrooqi highlighted some of the many objectives that Research Groups at SQU share. The most important amongst these include finding novel solutions for Oman’s social and economic challenges, building networks of researchers within and across disciplines to engage in applied research in areas requiring complex approaches, encouraging increased research output in terms of publications, presentations, patents and so on, and increasing SQU’s national and international reputation and standing in the world university rankings. The pursuit of these objectives not only strengthens SQU’s standing as one of the main drivers of research and innovation both within Oman and across the wider Arab Gulf region, but also ensures that research conducted at the university has a direct and significant impact on Oman’s continuing development efforts.
Applications for establishing Research Groups at the university are open all year. The proposed group should be devoted to conducting research that addresses important social, economic, and scientific issues in the country. The Research Group coordinator must be a SQU faculty member or researcher who has a PhD and demonstrable expertise in the group’s area of investigative concern. In addition, the group requires at least three members who are doctorate-holding faculty or researchers; however, it is possible for non-SQU researchers to join provided the group contains at least two SQU members.
Once the group has been formed and the required paperwork has been completed and signed by all group members, it is then submitted to the Deanship of Research for consideration. If the Deanship accepts the initial submission, it then seeks approval for the establishment of the Research Group from the unit to which the group’s coordinator belongs. The initial Research Group approval is then issued by the Deanship for a 5-year period. SQU provides various forms of support to Research Groups after their formation, based on their needs and resource availability.
On the 31st of December each year, the group coordinator is required to submit a Research Group Report to the Deanship through their relevant Head of Department, Assistant Dean of Postgraduate Studies and Research and the Dean of the College, or through their relevant unit Director. The report summarizes the activities and achievements of the group. It is intended that Research Groups serve as a nucleus for future research centers at SQU.
Operating under these terms and conditions, a number of Research Groups are currently active under the supervision of the Deanship of Research. For example, the Seismic Risk Assessment Research Group supports Oman’s efforts to establish an integrated seismic risk management and monitoring system in order to mitigate risks and ensure the safety of Oman’s people and infrastructure. Further, the Omani Visual Arts Research Group is primarily concerned with the visual arts and their role in shaping Omani identity. The group seeks to highlight the Fine Arts Movement in the sultanate, in addition to studying the challenges and future directions of contemporary Omani artistic expression.
Other active Research Groups at SQU include the Learning and Applications Research Group. This group aims to detect and identify human cognitive functions through the exploration of numerous aspects, including human perception, attention, awareness, memory, cognitive processes, mental images, intellect maps, knowledge organization in the mind, and complex intellect processes. The Research Group focuses on the information-processing model, and, in particular, the use of theory and applications to increase understanding of how people perceive, learn, remember and think in different areas of information. Other Research Groups under the Deanship of Research include the Smart Cities Research Group, the Waste Management and Recycling Group, the Aging and Senility Research Group, the Plant Pathology Research Group and so on.
The Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Postgraduate Studies & Research highlighted that all Research Groups were also eligible to apply for the Deanship of Research Award for Most Active Research Group. Each year, the Deanship of Research offers an annual award of 3,000 Omani rials for the most active research group which is divided between the group members. In order to enter the competition, it is necessary for the Research Group to be registered with the Deanship of Research. The group coordinator must then submit an application form, along with supporting documents, to the Dean of Research before the last day of February each year. The Dean of Research next forwards all award applications to the Research Board which evaluates them and decides upon the winner. The Board’s evaluation takes into account a wide range of criteria, including research and intellectual property output and dissemination, consultancies, research grants and awards, supervision of postgraduate students and so on. The winner of the Most Active Research Group award is announced on University Day by the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Postgraduate Studies and Research.
The Deanship of Research Award for Most Active Research Group has been awarded twice since its inception. In its inaugural edition, the award was won by the Plant Pathology Research Group supervised by Dr. Abdullah Al-Sadi, the Dean of the College of Agricultural & Marine Sciences. Dr. Abdullah received the award on behalf of the group at University Day on May 2nd, 2018. In its second year, the award given out at University Day in 2019 went to the Modelling of Nanofluid Flows Research Group. The group is supervised by the College of Science’s Dr. Mohammed Mansur Rahman.
Dr. Rahma concluded by stating that, since their establishment at the university, Research Groups have continued to have a direct and significant impact on the country’s social and economic development. Through their research projects and initiatives, they are at the cutting edge of research across areas of strategic importance to the sultanate, and, as such, they continue to be an important driver of SQU’s research output and achievement.