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Academic research bridges the gap in Arabic language in multiple applications

NRF and BUiD jointly fund IT Research to enhance automatic processing of Arabic Language allowing it to be used for multiple applications such as Machine Translation, text summarisation, Information Extraction, computer-aided language learning (CALL).

Dr Khaled Shaalan, Associate Professor of Informatics at The British University in Dubai recently presented an update to representatives from National research Foundation on progress of his project "Exploiting Treebank resources for extending a Rule-Based Arabic Parser Coverage". Dr Shaalan received partial funding for this research project through the NRF's Research & Scholarship Awards competition 2009, awarded on 1st Dec 2011.

The visit was a part of NRF's funding process for the interim report site visit with Dr. Husam Sultan Al Ulama, Director of NRF and Dr Ahmed Alosi, Program Manager along with senior representative from BUiD , Prof Abdullah Alshamsi , Vice-Chancellor of BUiD and Prof Bassam Abu Hijleh, Dean of Faculty of Engineering and IT at BUiD.
National Research Foundation is a Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research initiative to promote research activity in public and private educational institutions and organizations by individuals or teams of researchers in the UAE. Dr Husam Sultan Al Ulama said "NRF partial funding of research project to Dr Shaalan is according to the instructions of HH Sheikh Mubarak Al Nahayn, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research to support research in line with priorities of UAE and also Dr Shaalan's excellent research background in the field and BUiD's outstanding aptitude for research. I was very satisfied with Dr Shalaan's progress on the research project and that he and his team managed to disseminate the learning at five high-impact International IT conferences already. "
Prof Abdullah Alshamsi Vice-Chancellor of BUiD added that "Arabic Language is the world's 5th most spoken language with more than 300 million people speaking it and a breakthrough on Dr Shaalan's research will definitely cover milestones in understanding and use of Arabic language in the region. As the region's first research-based university BUiD has always focused its research on topics that would strengthen UAE in Economic, Social or Cultural terms. I urge more public and private organizations to collaborate with us in strengthening the research culture in the UAE".
Dr Khaled Shaalan, is also an Honorary Fellow at the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh, the largest and most research active department of its kind in the UK. He is an expert in Arabic natural language processing research and Arabic computational Linguistics; he is leading the Arabic language processing research at BUiD. He has successfully led a diverse set of funded research projects in machine translation, named entity recognition, information retrieval, parsing, intelligent language tutoring systems, health informatics, and expert systems. His achievements include a total of 80 Peer-reviewed academic publications in Journals, Book Chapters, and Conference Proceedings. He has been involved in developing a wide set of tools at different analytical and generational levels: morphological, syntactic, and (shallow) semantics. Dr Shaalan said that "Currently there are no tools or resources that can analyse the Arabic sentence and understand the grammatical make up of the sentence with acceptable accuracy. My research which focuses on building and improving the necessary tools and resources for understanding the Arabic Language will make a significant contribution towards use of Arabic language in various key applications. We are looking at the possibility of having precise Machine translation; enabling enforced inbuilt spell checks, improved call centre experiences and advanced computer aided learning technologies."
The British University in Dubai since its establishment in 2003 has been offering postgraduate education in association with UK Universities of Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester and King's College London chosen because of their research standing and high standards. Prof Bassam Abu Hijleh, Dean of Faculty of Engineering and IT congratulated Dr Khaled on his progress of his research and academic leadership, "I am happy to see Dr Khaled of BUiD and Dr Ali Farghly of Standford University make such good progress. 
Morphological analysis and parsing of Arabic sentences will enable tools that will analyse the entire sentence and not stick to pattern matching or shallow parsing as is the case in the traditional tools that are available now. "Arabic natural language processing and Arabic Computational Linguistics are some of the key areas of research in the IT industry". Dr Khaled Shaalan is aiming for project completion by Feb 2013, with the findings published at top tier conferences and journals. This is one future step along the way in the accurate and reliable use of the Arabic language for computer driven functionality.