Reversing 'Brain Drain'

Cabinet plans to reverse 'brain drain' by establishing 30 academic centers. Survey shows public is proud of Israel's scientists.

Maayana Miskin, | updated: 18:27

Israel news photo: file

On Sunday, the cabinet approved a plan aimed at reversing “brain drain” and luring scientists and academics back to Israel. The plan combines three projects:

  • At an investment of NIS 450 million, the government will establish 30 academic centers, which will aim to hire young Israeli scientists and researchers currently living abroad.
  •  Israeli universities will combine Master's and Doctoral degrees in an attempt to synchronize with the American system.
  • The Immigration and Absorption Ministry will create a database to aid returning scientists or potential immigrants with job placement.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said the plan was inspired by a recent meeting with Israeli scientists working in American universities. The scientists told Steinitz they hoped to return to Israel, but were unable to find work in their fields due to the shortage of job openings for scientists.

Poll: public admires scientists
A survey Hebrew University published this week found that most Israelis hold scientists in high regard, and believe the government should do more to fund scientific research. The survey, conducted in March 2010 by MarketWatch, found that Israelis consider “scientist” to be the second most prestigious vocation, trumped only by the time-honored Jewish favorite profession, “doctor.” Sixteen percent of respondents with children said they would like their child to become a university researcher.

The four least-respected professions were: banker, MK, journalist, and 'religious official' -- a term which includes Jewish, Christian and Muslim clerics.

Sixty percent said they take pride in Israel's scientists. Only 20 percent said the government has invested sufficient resources in scientific research.

When asked why they believe scientists leave Israel, 41 percent cited the difference in salary between Israel and abroad. Seventeen percent said they believed scientists leave because there are too few opportunities to work in their field, and 14 percent said scientists enjoy higher status abroad.