Israel provides $56 million boost for joint Israel-US research projects

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Israel’s Council for Higher Education (CHE) has earmarked some $56 million to a joint US-Israeli research program over five years.

The special budget will be allocated to a joint US-Israel program set up by National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States–Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF). The money will enable the NSF-BSF program to run “many more US-Israeli scientific research projects” in “a variety of fields,”, the CHE said in a statement on Wednesday.

The NSF is an independent federal agency set up in 1950 by US Congress to promote the study of sciences. The BSF promotes scientific relations between the US and Israel by supporting collaborative research programs.

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The joint NSF-BSF program began operating in 2013 with the purpose of encouraging research collaboration between American and Israeli researchers. Through this program, researchers from both countries jointly submit proposals to the NSF-BSF, which reviews submissions and approves the winning proposals.

A scientist does cancer research at lab in Hadassah Hospital (KEREN FREEMAN/FLASH90)

Illustrative photo of cancer research at a lab at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem. (Keren Freeman/Flash90)

The program distributes grants for a variety of fields of research, including: exact sciences, engineering, computer science, natural and life sciences, earth and environmental sciences, economics, and psychology.

For Israeli researchers, the program “significantly increases research opportunities with the American scientific establishment,” while it contributes to improving the reputation of science in Israel and reinforcing internationalization in the higher education system, the statement said. Israel is among the few countries that has joint research programs with the NSF, the CHE said.

“The expansion of the NSF-BSF program is an achievement for the Israeli higher education system,” said Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats, chair of the CHE’s Planning and Budgeting Committee. “The US is the world’s research superpower and its willingness, through the NSF, to significantly expand American investment in, and collaboration with, Israeli researchers and institutions demonstrates the strength and quality of Israeli research.”

In addition to the increased funding for NSF-BSF and as part of efforts to increase the scope of support of collaborations between Israeli researchers and institutions and American researchers, the CHE also approved two additional initiatives.

Starting this year, the CHE is increasing the number of postdoctoral scholarships for people studying in Israel, with an emphasis on outstanding postdoctoral students from leading universities in the United States and Canada. The program, in collaboration with the Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute, will enable the admission of dozens of outstanding postdoctoral students in STEM subjects over the next several years at all Israeli research universities. The amount of the scholarship for each postdoctoral student is $100,000 over two years, with the possibility of extending the scholarship for an additional two years. The total budget will be approximately $11 million over the course of four years.

The CHE has also increased support of postdoctoral scholarships granted to Israeli and American scientists in the framework of the Fulbright Israel United States-Israel Education Fund (USIEF) from $20,000 a year to $35,000 a year for American postdoctoral students studying in Israel, and from $37,500 to $47,500 a year for Israeli postdoctoral students studying in the United States.

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