I read with interest your Editorial “Revival in Iran” about the development of the country's education and science (Nature 442, 719–720; 2006). As you say, Iran made many achievements during the time of Nizam al-Mulk. Its history also includes many other periods in which highly qualified scientists such as Razi in the ninth century and Avicenna in the tenth made great advances.
You suggest that Iran's desire for nuclear technology may have served as an impetus for its rise in science, and that this programme is viewed with suspicion by many. It is not clear to me why you doubt that growvth in science will be maintained. The acquisition and use of technology including nuclear, is a major item of Iranian scientists' agenda, in the hope that nuclear power can replace oil as the country's main source of energy.
Your Editorial states that more than 4,000 papers from Iranian scientists were published in 2005. In fact, ISI indicates that 5,576 papers were published in 2005, compared with 4,343 so far in 2006: a figure likely to rise to about 6,500 by the end of the year — a 17% increase. If research into medical and related sciences is considered separately, Medline indicates that 1,466 Iranian papers were published in 2005, whereas for 2006 to date the figure is 1,440 and likely to rise to about 2100 by the end of the year: an increase of 46%. The trend of scientific progress is certain to be maintained and the “worryingly inexperienced people” appointed to lead the universities will steer Iran to new horizons. The average qualification of these new incumbents is higher than their predecessors' — the latter were well qualified, but even better-qualified people are now available. The outgoing presidents have become members of national decision-making bodies, for example the health policy council, and sit on universities' boards of trustees. Rather than their experience being lost, it is used to help exchange views with the new appointees.
Iran has not faltered in maintaining its momentum for contributing to science, and will not do so in the future. We believe that Iranian scientists can and will respond appropriately to the country's needs.