The Israel Academy’s Division of Natural Sciences, chaired by Prof. Itamar Willner, brings together some of Israel’s leading researchers in the fields of biology, engineering, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and medicine. Currently, in the academic year 2018–2019 (5779), the Division has 67 members. New members are elected annually in accord with the Israel Academy Law.
In the context of the Academy’s role of promoting basic research in Israel, the Division works to promote various fields of the natural sciences on a national level, on its own initiative or that of scientists who approach it. The Division’s activity is expressed, among other things, in the establishment of advisory committees in various fields, such as synchrotron radiation, environmental studies, nuclear physics, flora and fauna, and recently bioethics. It has also established local and international expert committees to examine particular issues and activity relating to them in Israel, and to make recommendations as to whether and by what means their advancement should be supported. For example, the Division worked to have Israel join the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble and to continue the support for the activity of Israeli scientists at the ESRF, by renewing the agreement with the European facility for five more years.
At the CERN Nuclear Research Center the Academy worked to upgrade Israel’s standing to member status. For this purpose the Academy convened an international committee of experts, headed by Prof. Sergio Bertolucci, to examine Israeli activity at CERN. The committee, which met on April 29–May 1, 2012, submitted a scientific report to the Academy with recommendations regarding the continuation of the support of the Council for Higher Education’s Planning and Budget Committee for the activity of Israeli scientists making use of high energies at CERN for five years, starting in 2013. The committee’s activity was accompanied by Prof. Eliezer Rabinovici, Chairman of the Israeli Committee for High Energy Physics. With the Academy’s recommendation, the expert committee’s report and recommendations were presented to the Planning and Budget Committee, which approved the continuation of its support. On January 15, 2014, the Israeli flag was raised in a ceremony at CERN, joining the 20 flags of the other participating countries.
The Division holds scientific conferences and invites lectures by distinguished scientists – for example, in the prestigious annual Albert Einstein Lecture. The Division also supports external conferences held with its involvement and participation. To carry out its various activities, the Division calls upon the assistance of its members. For example, a Member of the Division was designated to serve as the chairperson of a committee to examine the status of intellectual property and patent registration in Israel.
Reports on the following fields of research have been published by committees of the Division: Astronomy, Immunology, Neurology, High Energy, study of the Human Genome, and Environmental Studies.