The Arab Educational Information Network (Shamaa) is an online database that documents academic research produced in Arab countries about education and makes it publicly available.
The network, which was founded in 2006 under the leadership of the Lebanese Association for Educational Studies, provides free access to its database in Arabic, English and French for researchers and those interested in educational research. The database includes summaries and, when possible, the full text of studies, such as dissertations, book chapters, and academic journal articles. The database’s goal is to include all educational research published in the Arab world since 2007.
“The studies include bibliographic information, abstracts and in some cases full texts,” said Rita Maalouf, the Shamaa executive director. “We have subscribed to no less than 100 peer-refereed periodicals published in 17 Arab countries. All are documented and indexed accurately.
“We aim to keep growing,” said Adnan El-Amine, one of the founders of Shamaa and a Board member, “to expand our coverage of educational research produced in the Arab world and to create an Arab scientific community.”
The network serves a wide audience of Arab and non- Arab educational researchers and professors, especially students pursuing their undergraduate and graduate studies in education.
“Shamaa was my gateway to different research studies, including empirical research, conducted in most of the Arab countries in the field of education,” said Emma Ghosn, a master’s degree student in educational administration and policy studies at the American University of Beirut. “I was able to look at studies in KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia], Lebanon, and Egypt to see the results of their studies and to build upon such research.”
The Shamaa website uses search tools which allow a keyword search in the three different languages on various fields (author, title, publisher, etc). When full-text documents are available, they open in a PDF format, and can easily be saved or printed.
“Before launching a search, the user should probably have a look at the thesaurus tab, as it is presented as the most efficient way of searching documents in our database,” said Maalouf. She explained that the thesaurus not only provides access to the requested information but also indicates to the researcher, due to the database’s hierarchical structure, the various inter-related subjects, whether broader in scope, or narrower and more restricted.
“We work hard to provide the same services as ERIC, the online digital library of education research and information.” said Rania Kassab Shamaa’s public relations consultant. ERIC, the Education Resources Information Center, is sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education. In 2010 four years after the start of the project, Shamaa was established as a non-profit autonomous Arab organization with grants from Ford Foundation, The Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, UNESCO Regional Bureau of Education in the Arab States, Lebanese National Commission for UNESCO, Arab Bureau of Education in the Gulf States, and Kuwait Society for the Advancement of Arab Children.
The Shamaa team has started to visit different universities and academic centers to present more advanced tips on how to search Shamaa. “We have a dedicated team to answer questions and help researchers via e-mail, phone calls and the Facebook page,” said Kassab.
Of course, researchers always want more. “I would highly appreciate it if Shamaa offered full texts for every study, for there are studies which don’t include full texts in the database.” said Ghosn. Although Shamaa’s stated mission is just to include articles produced in Arab countries, some researchers wish for the addition of articles by Arab professors and published in Western journals.
Shamaa administrators say they have to focus limited resources on information not available elsewhere, and encourage researchers to let them know about publications that qualify for inclusion.