In July 2007, the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities established a Contact Center between the Academy and Israeli scientists abroad. The Center's purpose is mainly to help Israeli scientists and researchers abroad find suitable positions in Israel's academic community.
The Contact Center was founded at the recommendation of the Committee for the Examination of the Higher Education System in Israel, headed by former Finance Minister Avraham Shochat, which submitted its report to the Government of Israel in July 2007. Recommendation no. 31 in the chapter of the subcommittee for furthering academic research points to the need for establishing and maintaining contact with Israeli researchers and graduate students abroad and to the Israel Academy as the appropriate institution to set up a contact system for this purpose.
Professor Menahem Yaari, then President of the Israel Academy, was a member of the Shochat Committee and headed the subcommittee for furthering academic research. Following its examination of the existing state of affairs, the subcommittee explored what might be done to maintain contact with the many Israeli academics living abroad, with the aim of easing their return to Israel and mainstreaming them, as much as possible, into the higher education system.
As part of the subcommittee's activity, in February 2007, the Academy set up an on-line register of young Israeli scientists and students abroad. About 1,000 men and women filled out a detailed online questionnaire. A clear picture emerged from it, showing that their chief motivations for returning to Israel were family and cultural ties, their children’s education and their hopes of finding suitable professional positions. Political and security considerations as well as salary and standard of living were found to be less important to the respondents.
The Academy was concerned about Israel’s "Brain Drain" and the expressed wish of large numbers of Israeli researchers abroad to return to Israel, if they could only find appropriate, challenging academic positions. It was widely felt that Israel was not doing enough to maintain contact with these academics. Several thousand Israeli doctoral and post-doctoral students were estimated to reside abroad, and the proportion of those who did not return to Israel’s higher education system appeared to be on the increase, partly as a result of staff cuts at Israel’s academic institutions and their consequent difficulties in absorbing new, young scholars. In light of this situation and of the survey's results, the Academy decided to take action. On Professor Yaari’s initiative, the Academy established the Contact Center.
Through the Contact Center, Professor Yaari sent a personal letter to researchers who had responded to the survey, setting out the Academy’s intention to raise the situation of Israeli scientists abroad with the appropriate authorities and to do as much as it could to assist them in their specific areas of concern. He also stated the Academy’s belief that Israel’s higher education system must make a significant effort to offer them a respectable professional future.