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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

'Israel is choking its scientists'

Nobel Prize winner Robert Aumann has identified the Israeli government's lack of investment and forward looking policy as the reason behind an alleged braindrain of Israeli scientists. This is the real scandal at the heart of Israeli science.

Israel is choking off its future scientists, said Hebew University's president at a ceremony in Jerusalem's Mount Scopus to honor Professor Aumann for winning the Nobel prize.

"I'm convinced that for the next ten years, Israeli scientists will be winning Nobel prizes, but they are the fruit of the investment of the last 30 to 40 years. But will there be a Nobel prize winning scientist in another 30 to 40 years? I have major doubts about that. In Israel, there is an enormous pool of scientific resources, but the State of Israel is chocking it and destroying it," warned Hebrew University President Menachem Magidor at a press conference on the university's Mount Scopus campus.

Science and Technology Minister Matan Vilnai said he initiated a program to encourage outstanding Israeli scientists and researchers to return Israel after the period of their specialization ends in universities abroad.

Vilnai's comments came as many researchers told Ynet of difficult conditions in university faculties.

Speaking to Ynet, Vilnai said, "the issue of the brain drain from Israel troubles me tremendously. It's fine that they want to learn overseas, but the problem is that they are absorbed there quickly. I've asked the head of my offices to put together a program with the relevant departments, the Ministry of Absorption, as well as the Ministry of Education, which would allow researchers to return to Israel.

Vilnai said that his aim was to raise enough funds to allow institutions to receive researchers with a higher salary, and to invest in laboratories. "At a first glance, we'll need not less than NIS 20 to 25 million," he said.

But Nobel prize winning game theory scientist, Professor Aumann, who immigrated to Israel from the United States, told the press conference, "We don't need one specific scientist or another here. If a scientist chooses to work in the United States, good luck to him. This country is for those who want to work in it, and those who have the determination, spiritual devotion, and sensitivities. I wanted to come and live here."

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