(photo credit: )
Due to inadequate state funding, the Israel Science Foundation will not be able to run all its programs for support of research, despite a rise in the number of applications and a significant increase in the quality of applications from young scientists. The ISF announced on Monday that the Council for Higher Education Planning and Budgets Committee was to have allocated about NIS 360 million for the coming year, making it possible to give more grants for scientific research and increase the average sum for each grant. But budgetary constraints kept the committee from realizing its goal, the ISF said, and only NIS 260m. in grants will be allocated.
Prof. Yossi Klafter, chairman of the ISF's academic board, said that "higher education and basic research provide the basis of the country's strength. The contribution of basic research toward the advancement of the economy and the improvement of the quality of life is indisputably acknowledged today. Weakening scientific infrastructures wreaks havoc over the course of time and recovery takes years."
He urged that Israeli researchers be provided with funding at a level that will allow them fair competition with their counterparts from the developed countries. He was pleased that many of the young scientists who applied for grants for the first time showed remarkable achievements, but only some of these will receive support for their research.
An unprecedented 1,141 applications for new grants were presented this year. The ISF budget was divided among the exact sciences and technology (NIS 25.5m. or 39.5 percent), life sciences and medicine (NIS 27.5m. or 42.5%) and the humanities and social sciences (NIS 12m. or 18%). The Bikura program provided support with personal and institutional grants to the amount of NIS 3.4m.
Only 372 new personal grants were allocated (compared to 402 last year) - 133 in the exact sciences and technology, 127 in the life sciences and medicine and 111 in the humanities and social sciences. Altogether, the ISF will provide 1,240 personal grants in the coming academic year (including second, third and fourth years of grants), and the amounts will be smaller than last year, Klafter said.
Although the ISF aims to provide support for researchers' labs, during the last five years, the equipment budget was drastically reduced. In 2001-2002, this budget comprised 18% of the foundation's allocations, but today it represents only 7%.
This year, only nine grants for institutional equipment were approved, for a total of NIS 5 million.
This year, the ISF tackled the brain-drain problem and, with the support of a generous donation, put into operation the new and unique Morasha program earmarked for top-level young scientists in the natural sciences who on completion of their doctorates and post-doctorates, have been accepted to one of the universities and haven't yet returned to Israel.
The Legacy Heritage Fund of New York and Jerusalem honors the late Bella and Harry Wexner, who established one of the world's major retail conglomerates. Four men and one woman scientist who are returning to Israel with the foundation's help will be hired by Israeli universities and enabled to establish state-of-the-art laboratories to do their research.