Israel produces more scientific publications per million citizens than the United States, Japan, Britain or Russia, according to new data released at a conference at Bar Ilan University on Monday by the Council of Higher Education.
According to the report, based on figures for 2005, Israeli scientists were published 6,309 times in various foreign scientific journals, a figure surpassed only by scientists in Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark. The figure is just about ten times Israel's percentage in the general global population.
The United States was listed in 12th place, and Germany in 15th. Israel was immediately followed by Finland, the Netherlands and Canada.
Of equal, or greater significance, is the number of citations by other scientists linked backed to articles by Israelis. The Technion's Professor Avram Hershko, the 2004 Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry, for example, published 148 articles -- but was cited by others more than 16,000 times.
"Israelis have written about one percent of the scientific articles in the world," noted Professor Yehudit Bar-Ilan, who led the conference and is head of the Information Science Department at Bar Ilan University.
However, she added, the rest of the picture is not quite so rosy. "The decrease in public funding for research is going to lead to a drop [in scientific activity] in the coming years," she warned.
Beware the 'Brain Drain'
New research centers are being built in developing countries around the world, committee officials noted, especially in China and India, while the number of scientists at Israeli institutions is shrinking. This may lead to more of the feared "brain drain" in Israel that has plagued the Jewish State in recent decades.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on participants at a Jewish Agency convention in Jerusalem last month to help the government reverse the trend, reminding them that Israel has the highest rate of per-capita Nobel Prize winners in the world.
He also asked Education Minister Gideon Saar and Professor Manuel Trajtenberg, head of the Higher Education Council Committee for Planning and Budgets, to prepare a proposal for funding to recruit Israeli academics who have gone abroad. The proposal is to be ready this month.
Netanyahu's request came following a call for such a fund by Labor's Minority Affairs Minister Avishai Braverman. A former president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Braverman cited a report saying that the biggest concentration of Israeli faculty members abroad can be found in 40 institutions of higher learning in the United States.