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Report of the Follow-up Committee to the State of the Sciences in Israel Report

Report of the Committee to Follow-up on Implementation of the Recommendations made in the Report of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities
As required by the Israel Academy of Sciences Law, in November 2016, the President of the Academy, Prof. Nili Cohen, submitted the second triennial report to the Speaker of the Knesset, Mr. Yuli Edelstein, to the Chair of the Knesset’s Science and Technology Committee, Mr. Uri Maklev, and to the Minister of Science, Technology and Space, Mr. Ofir Akunis. In order to follow up on the implementation of the report’s recommendations, in March 2017, Prof. Cohen appointed a follow-up committee (hereafter, the committee). In addition to following up on application of the recommendations, the committee was asked to prepare the ground for writing the Academy’s next triennial report, to be submitted to the relevant authorities in November 2019.
Committee members
Prof. Cohen appointed members to serve on the follow-up committee from among the members of the Israel Academy of Sciences and the Israel Young Academy. They are: Prof. Reshef Tenne (chair), Prof. Naama Goren-Inbar, Prof. Amnon Aharony, Prof. Yoav Benjamini, Prof. Yosef Yarden, and Prof. Noam Eliaz. In accordance with the chair’s request and the committee members’ agreement, Prof. Yohanan Friedmann and Prof. Yoram Bilu were appointed as observers. Mr. Gadi Levin, Deputy Director of Finance at the Israel Academy of Sciences, was appointed Committee Coordinator, and Ms. Merav Atar was appointed Committee Secretary.
The committee’s method of operation
The committee worked during a period of one year and held seven plenary meetings. Many senior professionals were invited to these meetings, representing the core management of the organizations that support academic research, including directors and chairpersons of research foundations in Israel and of voluntary foundations, as well as representatives of government and the academy (see attached appendices). Committee members also conducted individual meetings with vice presidents of research or rectors at each university where they serve and consulted with members of the Israel Academy and the Israel Young Academy, with senior scientists, and others. The key objective of these meetings was to monitor implementation of the second triennial report’s recommendations. Two additional aims were: (1) to understand the present policy of allocating resources for support of scientific research, and (2) to point out the disparities between basic research needs and their funding. The report concerns mainly basic academic research and touches on several points related to translational research. In addition, in studying online materials and in discussions and correspondence we conducted, we became aware of similar activities by research bodies abroad.
Report summary
Alongside satisfaction with the flourishing of basic science and with the Planning and Budgeting Committee’s (hereafter: PBC) success in empowering Israeli scientists’ competitive edge, the committee related with concern to the ongoing crisis in the fields of the humanities and Jewish studies and calls for a re-examination of current policy. The committee proposes that the Israel Academy and the PBC conduct renewed and regular brainstorming sessions which will, in consultation with young scientists, identify directions for future research. The committee notes that funding of scientific equipment and infrastructure for young scientists is satisfactory. In contrast, funding of scientific equipment and infrastructure for established scientists is lacking. There is a need to find a solution to the problem of supplementary funding from the institutions. Mapping of research foundations including the National Foundation, the bi-national foundations, research supported by the Ministry of Science and The National Infrastructure Forum for Research and Development (TELEM) reveals a largely positive picture. The report, however, reveals several aspects that require specific attention, such as the Israel-Germany Binational Fund which is experiencing an ongoing budgetary crisis.