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Brain Drain

(Illustration) Photo: Getty Image Bank, Israel
(Illustration) Photo: Getty Image Bank, Israel
 
 

Israel’s brain drain worsening

Increasing numbers of Israeli scientists emigrate due to lack of government funding for research in country. Angered parents campaign in effort to bring back Israel’s great minds

Zvi Zinger
Published: 12.03.06, 10:23 / Israel News

According to a study by the Knesset's Science and Technology Committee, 4,500 Israeli scientists have left Israel over the past ten years for the United States, Europe, or the Far East for studies or senior university positions and key positions in the high-tech field.

 

In addition, the study showed that about 400,000 doctors and academics have left Israel since its establishment. Of these, 250,000 left for the US, 15,000 left for Canada, and the rest left for Europe and other countries.

 

The study was conducted by Dr. Omer Moav and Dr. Arik Gold and analyzed characteristics of Israelis leaving the country between 1995 and 2005. The study showed that there was a much higher rate of highly educated people leaving Israel as opposed to people with mandatory education.

 

The highest rate of emigrating Israeli academics (6.5 percent) was amongst researchers in the high-tech field. Doctors followed at 4.8 percent. Engineers and scientists that were not university faculty members took third place at 3 percent. Only 1.3 percent of Israeli emigrants were not academics.

 

By the year 2010, an estimated 700,000 scientists will be in demand in Europe due to the decision to raise Europe’s overall scientific exports from 2 percent to 30 percent of the Gross National Product (GNP).

 

Campaign for government funded research

The brain drain in Israel was expected to accelerate due to this decision. In light of the situation, parents of emigrating Israeli scientists decided to come together in an attempt to bring them home.

 

According to them, the lack of grants and unacceptable conditions offered to scientists and researchers in Israel was the reason for the high rate of emigration amongst this particular sector of the population.

 

Former Mayor of Kiryat Malachi Shimi Shimon, whose daughter was working towards her doctorate degree at Stanford University in California, said, “I raised my children to love their people and their homeland. But my daughter and many others like her are forced to study in the United States because it’s difficult to accept scientific research work conditions here.”

 

He explained that the purpose of the parents’ campaign was to pressure the government to invest more in research and development. “If the situation continues, we’ll find all of the good minds in the country out,” he said.

 

Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport Director General Eitan Broshi met with Shimon and said, “This is an original and welcomed initiative, the scientists’ parents will receive all possible aide from us.”

 

According to Broshi, within a few months the ministry was planning on establishing a joint fund between the government and research institutes in an effort to bring scientists back to Israel.

 

The proposed budget of the fund was at least NIS 250 million (USD 59 million) and would fund the first three years back in the country for all returning scientists. At the end of three years, research institutes would be obligated to pay for the continuation of the scientists’ research.

 

Broshi said, “We’ve reached an agreement with all bodies, except the Finance Ministry, regarding the fund. I hope that by January 2007 we will welcome the accomplishment.”

 

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