Research (illustrative)
Research (illustrative) Thinkstock

A new survey of 2,500 participants published by ScienceAbroad shows 48% of Israeli academics living abroad are unlikely to return to Israel - and only 39% are seriously considering returning to Israel within the next year.

Many of the respondents emphasized their desire to return and the importance of being able to receive information on jobs in their field in Israel. 76% of post-doctorate Israelis who leave Israel do so in order to return to a research position in Israeli academics, and 40% said the reason they remain abroad is because they have not found a suitable position in Israel.

The results of the survey were presented to the Knesset's Science and Technology Committee.

According to ScienceAbroad, there are over 2,500 Israeli researchers living around the world, and 1,128 living abroad. Since ScienceAbroad's founding, 644 scientists have returned to Israel with their families. 60% of the returnees work in academia, and 36% in industry. Their annual yield? Seventy-nine million NIS.

According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, one out of every three Israelis with a doctorate and over 50% of those with post-doctoral degrees live abroad. 21% of respondents said they gave up on returning to academia, and are looking for alternatives.

According to MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beytenu), the main issue is bringing them back to academia. But the Council for Higher Education's Dr. Liat Maoz said they are nearly at their goal of 5,000 positions for researchers and academics. Currently, she says, they have 4,900 positions, and half of them have been filled by Israelis returning from abroad.

"These people are Israel's natural gas," MK Haim Jelin (Yesh Atid) said.

"48% of our friends living abroad are highly likely to return to Israel if they find an attractive position. We see it when we tell them the options," Association for Israeli Scientists Abroad founder Dr. Shmulik Hess said.

According to ScienceAbroad, one of the major reasons for living abroad is the need for a post-doctorate. Most of those who do not return cite the lack of academic positions in Israel.

"The biggest challenge is encouraging Israeli scientists living abroad to consider other career options. These scientists went to Israeli universities and left Israel for a post-doctorate intending to come back to Israel and join the staff of a university," ScienceAbroad CEO Monika Lev-Cohen said. "The number of available positions in Israeli universities is tiny, especially in the life sciences, so the scientists find themselves having to choose whether to try for a position in a university abroad."

"Most don't have the required skills to choose other options, but even more, they lack the motivation to do so."