Failure to invest in basic science 'threat to Israel's existence'
Nobel laureate: When Israel struggled for its existence during the early days, its leaders had set aside money for research.
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
The "financial starvation" of basic science in Israel constitutes a threat to the state, Prof. Roger Kornberg, a professor of structural biology at Stanford University School of Medicine and a long-time visiting professor at the Hebrew University, has declared.
Kornberg, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2006, said during BIU's board of governors meetings this week that the lack of funding would prevent the hiring here of outstanding Israeli researchers who had left the country to study and ended up working abroad.
Kornberg, whose late father Prof. Arthur Kornberg received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1959, said he was well acquainted with Israeli science and higher education and the many high-quality minds here. During the last five years at HU and the other universities, "basic science research has shrunk by 30 percent while those in the US have doubled."
As a result, talented Israelis doing their post-doctoral research abroad will have nowhere to return when they finish, Kornberg said. "These talented people, who could have made the discoveries that would serve as the basis for the next generation of research and development - they and their children are lost by the State of Israel."
He added that even when Israel hadn't had enough food and struggled for its existence during the early days of the state, its leaders had set aside money for research. "Today, Israel is much stronger financially, but ironically funding of basic research is on the decline...
"Today we enjoy the fruits of investments by [then-prime minister] David Ben-Gurion in the 1950s. The lack of investment today will diminish the economic basis for economic growth 25 years from now and will be nothing less that a strategic threat to Israel's existence," Kornberg declared.
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