Weizmann-UK collaboration program challenges efforts at academic boycott
Program called "Making Connections" will bring together Weizmann scientists and their counterparts from Britain.
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
Despite ongoing efforts by academics in the United Kingdom to impose a boycott against Israeli institutions of higher learning, a new program to enhance scientific collaboration between the UK and Israel has been initiated by the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot.
The program, called "Making Connections," will bring together Weizmann scientists and their counterparts from the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London (ICL) and University College London (UCL) - whose staffers were among the leaders of the boycott effort.
Originally planed to run two programs over a five-year period, the enthusiastic initial response hints that a swift increase may be possible.
The timing of the launch is significant, as the UK University and College Union has just announced that it is ending its academic boycott of Israel.
This is the first time since its inception in 1950 that the friends organization Weizmann UK has provided grants for such an initiative, which is funded entirely by donors in that country.
The program has already received 29 applications from the Weizmann Institute - far more than had been anticipated. Of these, 10 projects were shortlisted, and with the help of Profs. Benjamin Chain (UCL), David Klug (ICL) and Haim Garty (Weizmann Institute), five were selected for funding by Weizmann UK.
The five winning research programs will focus on brain processes involved in learning and memory; understanding the nature of "dark energy" in the universe; the physical principles governing the basic processes of living cells; deciphering the molecular events that take place in living cells; and the self-assembly of advanced materials.
Weizmann UK chairman Lord Mitchell said: "This is a very important development in international scientific collaboration. Our first five projects deal with some of the most challenging areas at the forefront of modern scientific investigation and we are proud to be leading the way."
Weizmann Institute president Prof. Daniel Zajfman added: "Science knows no borders. Scientific ideas and discoveries, whether it be in the short- or long term, benefit all humankind. Thus it seems only natural that scientists worldwide should focus their efforts collectively in broadening the boundaries of human knowledge.
"Our vision is that this pioneering program will develop into a broad, prestigious, binational project, akin to existing programs that Israel has developed with the US and Germany. It will be initiated on a competitive basis of quality assessment and will serve scientists from all universities and research institutions in the two countries."
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