Partnership builds science acumen among young Arab readers

Illustration of two scientists from the article, The Story of Legionella: From Surviving inside Amoebas to Causing Pneumonia. Photo courtesy: Frontiers for Young Minds

Science articles are not always accessible to young people due to complex terms and concepts, but finding the story in science can bridge this gap. An innovative, science publications collaboration between King Abdullah University of Science Technology ( KAUST) and Frontiers for Young Minds ( FYM) is inspiring Arabic speaking youth in the Kingdom and around the world towards discovery and scientific research by engaging them in the publications process. The partnership has resulted in its first article written and reviewed originally in Arabic.

“KAUST has been our since the inception of our Arabic version of the journal, and through their kind support we have created extensive publications in Arabic since launch in mid-2021,” said Laura Henderson, head of the public outreach program at Frontiers. The award-winning FYM program provides child-friendly, high-quality scientific articles — uniquely edited by children (age 8-15) — to engage youth globally.

In 2020, KAUST partnered with FYM to help produce materials for young readerson FYM’s Arabic website. Up until now, these articles all have been translations. However, on April 17, 2023, the initiative published its first Arabic-original science article, The Story of Legionella: From Surviving inside Amoebas to Causing Pneumonia, written by Yousef Abu Kwaik, a professor of molecular microbial pathogenesis in the College of Medicine, and doctoral student Tasneem Al-quadan, both at the University of Louisville, USA.

“The inaugural science article written and reviewed originally in Arabic shows how KAUST’s collaboration with Frontiers supports an accessible understanding of complex scientific concepts for even the youngest readers,” said Dr. Najah Ashry, vice president of KAUST for Strategic National Advancement. “Early engagement with Saudi youth and other Arabic-speaking young people helps ensure this region develops the necessary STEAM leadership for the future.”

Mentorship from KAUST PhD student

For English-speaking readers, The Story of Legionella: From Surviving inside Amoebas to Causing Pneumonia is already available online. In both the English and Arabic versions, the article describes Legionella pneumophila — a water-dwelling bacteria that has evolved to thrive in amoebas and can infect human macrophages, potentially causing disease.

Three children, including two Saudis, reviewed the manuscript. A KAUST PhD student mentored the youth. As with other FYM articles, young reviewers worked under the science mentors’ guidance to provide authors with direct feedback on how to make the article clear and fun for children to read.

Somayah Albaradei, 35, who graduated from KAUST in 2022 with a PhD in Computer Science, served as one of the article’s science mentors. Now an assistant professor at King Abdulaziz University (KAU), Albaradei said that the opportunity to pass on knowledge and encourage innovation in Arabic was unique and valuable.

“The best way to make future remarkable discoveries and more promising young scientists is to invest in them by enabling young people and scientists to work together to create accurate and exciting articles. This will have an impact on achieving the Saudi Vision 2030 of a vibrant society, thriving economy and an ambitious nation.”

An opportunity to support FYM

With the pilot established, Henderson said that FYM is encouraging more Arabic-speaking researchers to support the program, and that it is increasing opportunities for Arabic-speaking youth to participate in and learn from this unique peer-review process. The program calls for Arabic-speaking PhD-holders, experienced in peer review and specialist science areas, to apply as mentors, and Arabic-speaking researchers with active publication records to apply as authors.

Frontiers for Young Minds (FYM) is a unique science journal for kids. Each article published is written by top researchers, including Nobel Prize winners, and is peer-reviewed by young students, aged 8-15, to ensure that everything is clear, accessible and engaging for their peers. Illustration courtesy FYM

According to Henderson, FYM and KAUST support each others’ missions by uniting to communicate the best ground-breaking research to the widest possible global audience, inspiring the next generation of top scientists. “I am sure that the relationship will continue to develop to support further new projects and events, expanding our Arabic-speaking recognition and prestige.”

By working with science mentors and being part of a crucial stage in the research process, young reviewers gain critical-thinking skills while learning about the latest science and how the scientific method works.

For more information on supporting the program, contact FYM at