NGO appeals to Israeli academics abroad to return home

ScienceAbroad attracts hundreds to employment fairs at four North American locations.

January 29, 2017 22:26
2 minute read.
ISRAELI ACADEMICS attend a ScienceAbroad event last week

ISRAELI ACADEMICS attend a ScienceAbroad event last week. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Hundreds of Israeli academics living in North America participated in a series of fairs organized last week by the ScienceAbroad organization to encourage them to return to Israel.

The events, held in four different cities, were supported by the Immigration and Absorption Ministry. Most of the participants were scientists, including postdoctorate students who have been studying and working in the US and Canada. In the last two years, more than 600 Israelis there have expressed their interest to ScienceAbroad in returning home.

The Central Bureau of Statistics and the program for bringing back academics have said 1,860 Israelis with doctorates have been living abroad for three years or more. Of these, more than half of the post-doctoral students have specialized in the life sciences.

Only 9% of them work in industry and agriculture, while just 7% in the life sciences were hired by colleges and universities and 9% in industry and agriculture.

One out of every 10 who earned doctorates in Israel lives abroad. A quarter of PhDs in mathematics, 18.3% of those in computer sciences, 17.5% of those in biology or aeronautics engineering and 16% of those in chemistry, physics, biochemistry and genetics left Israel.

CBS said that in 2015, 27,826 Israelis with a recent bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree lived abroad, while the rate of returnees is lower than those who are leaving the country.

One of the main reasons for scientists to go abroad is the need to complete postdoctoral work to launch a career in research. Most of the young Israelis who get work abroad have difficulty returning because of the shortage of manpower slots in Israeli universities that conduct research, ScienceAbroad said.

Those who did show interest in returning took part in events at McGill University in Montreal, the Israeli Consulate in Chicago, the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and New York University in Manhattan.

The fairs were aimed at exposing the Israeli scientists abroad to the option of entrepreneurship as a career – either for opening a company of their own or of joining innovation departments in industrial companies.

ScienceAbroad CEO Monica Lev Cohen said the idea was for them to take an idea of their own, register for a patient and develop it for an independent company or sell it to a company that wans to develop it.

One young Israeli scientist who took part was Dr. Neta Kela, an immunologist from the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot who is doing her postdoctoral work at Stanford University in the field of oncology. She set up a start-up called Cellactor, which specializes in product development, innovation and initiatives in biotechnology and medicine and advises international and local companies. The fairs presented participants with possibilities on going state projects and receiving benefits and information on raising money for establishing companies in Israel.

ScienceAbroad, formerly called Bioabroad, is a nonprofit organization that has been working in North America since 2006 to keep in contact with Israeli scientists and researchers living abroad. It has 2,300 academic members, making it the largest network of Israeli scientists, engineers, physicians and entrepreneurs living abroad. It also runs 21 centers in leading North American universities.

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