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News briefs | The Israel Academy submits its second “State of Science in Israel” report

Prof. Nili Cohen, President of the Academy, submitted the report to Israel’s Minister of Science, Technology and Space and to the Knesset’s Science Committee on December 26, 2016.
19/01/2017
 
The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities submitted its second “State of Science in Israel” report on December 26, 2016, to the Minister of Science, Technology and Space and to the Knesset’s Science Committee. The report, produced by a committee set up by the Academy, was submitted by Academy President Prof. Nili Cohen in accordance with the clause in the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities Law requiring the Academy to submit triennial reports examining the state of scientific activity in Israel.
 
Executive Summary
 
The report begins by citing the distinguished international achievements of Israeli scientists and the prominent Israeli awards they have won in recent years. A special section is devoted to deficiencies in scientific infrastructure considered critical for research in the various scientific fields, and the steps required to address these deficiencies. The report presents an extensive review of the state of the humanities, which face an ongoing crisis, and of the social sciences in Israel. It goes on to discuss the state of “translational research” in Israel – that is, the transfer of knowledge and technology generated by basic research conducted at universities and colleges to institutes of applied research and high-tech industries. In this framework, the report briefly reviews the unique national program in nanotechnology that has just been concluded. Another section is devoted to international science relations, as expressed in partnerships between scientists, state and institutional cooperation and collaboration in “big science” – groundbreaking international projects that by their very nature entail huge investments and extensive activity from the point of view of their infrastructure and personnel. The report presents key input-output data on the science and higher education systems in Israel. It also discusses reports by the Israel Academy of Sciences on particular disciplines, including recent studies on two central fields of research: nuclear physics and archaeology. This is followed by a short, yet comprehensive, description of the current state of the universities in Israel. Finally, the report presents a summation of the science system, the higher education system, the reports published by the Israel Academy and Israel’s international scientific relations. An appendix refers the reader to the many documents collected by the committee, which are accessible in full on the Academy’s website (www.academy.ac.il). The report concludes with a list of the members of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the Israel Young Academy.
 
Key findings

- There is a widening scientific research gap between Israel and advanced countries, in terms of the acquisition of expensive research equipment (for example, powerful electronic microscopes), and the development of major cultural projects (such as scholarly historical dictionaries in the humanities and databases in the social sciences). Therefore, we recommend establishing a program to fund infrastructure for scientific research, based on scientific excellence, for the exact sciences, engineering and medical research; and for major programs and projects in the humanities and social sciences.
 
- Fostering collaboration between Israeli scientists and their colleagues overseas is a major cornerstones of academic research in Israel. The current level of collaboration in the framework of the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) does not meet the needs of the scientific communities on either side of the ocean. Therefore, we propose expanding the frameworks for funding joint research by scientists from Israel and the U.S. through increased collaboration between the BSF and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). We also propose considering participation in major international projects, such as the telescope in Chile, in which the excellence of Israeli scientists can come to expression.
 
- Developing the humanities and social sciences and protecting their rightful status in the higher education system are essential to Israel’s cultural and social character. Additional ways must be found to overcome the ongoing crisis in the humanities. At the same time, we believe there is no alternative to merging programs in some fields, including the creation of inter-university programs.
 
- The rapidly changing contours of the fields of knowledge in the social sciences, and the growing number of interdisciplinary configurations, have created an increasing demand in the world of knowledge and in the labor market for interdisciplinary curricula and centers, and these should be nurtured. Such curricula or centers transcend conventional boundaries between scientific faculties; an example is the field of brain science and research on cognition and on human individual and social behavior.
 
- Ways must be found to reinforce collaboration between the universities and industry by encouraging government programs dedicated to this subject – such as the KAMIN and NOFAR programs for supporting applied research, the TAMIM (FTA-focal technology areas) program, and the strategic applied research supported by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space.
 
The full report (in Hebrew) is available for download here
 
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