We read with interest your News report “Arab state pours oil profits into science” (Nature 441, 132–133; 2006). Other countries in the Gulf have also tried to spend oil money on setting up branches of Western universities, which is of arguable value when the infrastructure and the basic prerequisites of scientific research do not exist. Educating and training the personnel capable of doing research, as you describe in Qatar, is more important than spending on research and buying sophisticated equipment. Focusing on research and inviting scientists from overseas may lead to some short-term results, but it does not guarantee sustainable development without a solid, internal educational base.

Iran is a good example of a country that has made considerable advances through focusing on education and training. Despite sanctions in almost all aspects of research during the past 27 years, Persian scientists have been producing cutting-edge science. Their publication rate in international journals has quadrupled during the past decade. Although it is still low compared with the developed countries, this puts Iran in the first rank of Islamic countries.

Considering the country's brain drain and its poor political relationship with the West, Iran's scientific community remains productive, even while economic sanctions make it hard for universities to purchase equipment or send people to the United States to attend scientific meetings.