Israeli advancements in technology benefit us all
Independent, The (London) , Mar 3, 2009 by Steve Connor
For a relatively small country, it would be fair to say that Israel punches above its weight in science. Some of its research organisations, such as the Weizmann Institute and the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology, are acknowledged worldwide as centres of scientific excellence.
For a desert land surrounded by hostile nations, Israel has traditionally viewed science as a vital intellectual activity that holds the key to its future prosperity and security. Apart from defence, Israel has spent much of its scientific effort in understanding water management, and was one of the few countries to understand the practical importance of climate change.
Israel has encouraged the Jewish Diaspora in the global scientific community to take part in its wide-ranging research activities which cover most scientific disciplines, from astronomy to zoology. The links are often informal, with Jewish scientists living in other countries visiting their colleagues in Israel on a regular basis.
Albert Einstein co-founded the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and the Technion has two Nobel Prize winners. With eight universities and several other elite academic institutions, Israel is considered to have a highly developed university education system and scientific research network; more than half of 20 to 24-year- olds are enrolled in higher education.
The link between scientists in the United States and Israel is particularly strong, mirroring the two countries political and economic ties. In 1995, for instance, the US-Israel Science and Technology Foundation was established to administer and fund co- operative scientific projects approved by both the governments of the United States and Israel. Britain, too, has tried to foster closer links with both Israeli and Palestinian scientists. In 2007, the Higher Education minister, Bill Rammell, and the former president of Universities UK Drummond Bone were dispatched to Israel and the Palestinian territories to promote scientific dialogue, following the attempt by some British academics to boycott Israeli universities.
International co-operation in science is near-universal because scientific research recognises few borders. Indeed, there have been attempts to forge more direct links between Israeli scientists and their Palestinian colleagues. An umbrella organisation called the Israeli- Palestinian Scientific Organisation was established in 2002 to distribute grants worth about 50,000 for joint research projects.
One British scientist who has close links with Israel said that many of his Israeli friends and colleagues strongly disapprove of the recent actions in Gaza. But his view is that it is counter- productive to call for a boycott of Israeli science and scientists: isolating the most liberal-minded Israelis would only make matters worse.
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