The sea is a strategic national resource for the State of Israel. Israel has geopolitical characteristics resembling those of an “island state,” and its “economic waters” (its Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ) are at least equal to its land area. The sea holds unexploited potential for promoting the state’s economy, and the growing demand for marine resources demands innovation and sustainable usage to ensure satisfactory preservation of the natural environment and its marine treasures.
The Academy’s National Steering Committee Reviewing the State of Marine Sciences in Israel published its report, recommending the establishment of a national program to respond to the growing need for research of the sea and its resources. The proposed program spans 5 years and is intended to further the entire field of marine research in Israel. According to the report, this program will place Israel in line with neighboring and other countries, which are constantly increasing their investments in researching the sea and its resources.
The committee's report envisions Israel declaring itself a “marine state”, considering that its economic, social and security future depends upon the sustainable exploitation of marine resources.
The objectives of the steering committee, headed by Academy Member Prof. Zvi Ben-Avraham
, were to map the current situation, assess the strengths, weaknesses and gaps in the country’s marine research, and formulate a strategic national academic program for marine research in Israel. The committee, comprising senior researchers from several Israeli academic institutions and one from abroad, met with scientists and with heads of research institutions and of various bodies dealing with marine research in order to learn about the current state of research in Israel. It also conducted a comprehensive survey among Israeli marine researchers and published the results in its report.
The committee recommends initiating a national academic program for marine research, to include the following actions:
1. Broadening and strengthening the scientific and engineering community engaged in basic and applied academic marine sciences research, by recruiting new faculty members, partnering with faculty members in other fields, and increasing the number of students pursuing higher degrees and post-doctoral study.
2. Expanding training in marine sciences and opening the field to students from advanced technological fields, and to students from the social sciences and the humanities. The training will also include dedicated technical staff.
3. Providing the research infrastructure required to position the State of Israel as a leader in the field of marine science; making this infrastructure available to researchers at institutions of higher education and in industry; and providing the resources needed for conducting studies that meet the competitive demands of innovation and excellence.
4. Developing relevant interfaces between academia, industry and government ministries: sharing of infrastructure and points of research focus, promoting collaboration, knowledge sharing and transfer, and encouraging external investments in academic research in the field – for the sake of boosting Israel’s economic development as well as creating opportunities for the academic community.
These goals will be achieved via the creation of dedicated funding channels for marine research based on excellence and innovation.
Marine research is characterized by interdisciplinarity and the use of sophisticated and expensive infrastructure. Strengthening and broadening this infrastructure is of great national importance. The Committee recommends promoting legislation to allocate a certain percentage of the state’s revenue from the tax on gas and oil profits for the long-term development of marine sciences in Israel, as is customary in other states (such as Denmark and Norway).
The members of the committee:
Dr. Lea Boehm – CHE member.
Prof. Colin Brownlee – Southampton University, Great Britain.
Prof. Hezi Gildor – The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Prof. Gitai Yahel – The Ruppin Academic Center.
Dr. Yizhaq Makovsky – MERCI, University of Haifa.
Prof. Orit Sivan – Ben Gurion University of the Negev.
Prof. Maoz Fine – IUI, Bar Ilan University.
Prof. Yinon Rudich – Weizmann Institute of Science.
The mandate of the committee:
1. Mapping all the active bodies in the field of marine sciences.
2. Gathering and compiling current-status data, and future plans for the development of the field and training of researchers.
3. Examining scientific cooperation between the various bodies dealing with marine research and advancement.
4. Examining new and developing marine research fields.
5. Examining the use of national infrastructure for advancing the scientific community in the field of marine sciences.
6. Establishing a national strategic program in the field of marine research.
6.2 Reports from universities and research institutes
6.3 Position papers by invited experts
6.8 Answers to the open questions presented in the survey conducted to map strengths, weaknesses and gaps