Scientists bemoan lack of funds for research

Knesset Science and Technology Committee insists that Israel is not spending enough on basic research.

zevulun orlev 298 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
zevulun orlev 298 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Everyone who spoke at Tuesday's special session of the Knesset Science and Technology Committee set to mark National Science Day - held every year since 2000 on March 14, Albert Einstein's birthday - insisted that Israel was not spending enough on basic research. The event was attended by only four MKs, but more than two dozen soldiers in the Talpiot program for science students, along with pupils at the ORT high school, were in attendance. The event, led by committee chairman MK Zevulun Orlev, also marked the death 10 months ago of leading physicist, former science minister and Israel Space Agency chairman professor Yuval Ne'eman, whose family was in attendance. Orlev said it was unfortunate that there is still no science minister, but that he hoped the man nominated, Ghaleb Majadle, would be approved as minister in another week. Science and Technology Ministry Director-General Eitan Broshi noted that the Nobel Prizes that Israeli scientists have received are based on achievements from a generation ago. He worried that cutbacks in university and research funding will make future Israeli Nobel laureates few and far between. He called on the government to establish a special team to reduce the brain drain caused by Israeli researchers going abroad and to increase the amount of money devoted to research. "It is shameful that the Science and Technology Ministry, which has had a score of ministers since it was founded 30 years ago, is not one of the government's strongest ministries," said Professor Emanuel Trachtenberg, head of the National Economic Council in the Prime Minister's Office. MK Arye Eldad added that too little is being done to promote the genius of young Israelis in basic science. "Without more money, it will all be just nice talk." Professor Yisrael Aumann, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2005, said there is no difference between basic and applied science. "Some argue that we excel in astroscience, but it has no application, and that we should put more effort into nanoscience." Aumann recalled that his grandson, who is in medical school, called and asked for information about the mathematical concept of linkage theory. "I learned this 50 years ago, and didn't understand why he needed it for medical school. He said it would help him understand the behavior of DNA." Who would have thought, Aumann said, that such esoteric knowledge would eventually become practical?