Israeli scientists fear ‘destructive’ education policies will result in a brain drain

Israeli scientists fear ‘destructive’ education policies will result in a brain drain

Science reports:

Until recently, Elena Itskovich, an Israeli stem cell biologist who earned a Ph.D. from Stanford University 2 years ago, was planning a return to her home nation. But Itskovich says she’s now “on the fence.” She is uneasy about the policies of the Israeli government elected nearly 8 months ago and largely led by conservative nationalists and ultra-Orthodox parties.

She is not alone in her concerns. Israeli researchers have become increasingly vocal in opposing policies they say threaten academic freedom at the nation’s universities and Israel’s standing as a leader in science and technology. The governing coalition’s “destructive” plans, which include downplaying science education and eliminating support for some Arab students, could do “irreversible” harm to Israel’s science and high-tech sectors, the heads of Israel’s public research universities and members of a top government science advisory panel warned in a letter earlier this month.

Many Israeli researchers “have feelings of apprehension and danger regarding their future,” declared the 1 August letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his science and education ministers. The government’s policies have already prompted some donors and investors to pause funding for R&D projects in Israel, and some foreign collaborators have issued “explicit threats” to cancel joint projects with Israeli institutions, members of the Council of University Heads and the National Council for Civilian Research and Development noted. There is also “a significant decrease in the willingness of leading Israeli scientists who are abroad to accept academic positions in Israel,” they wrote, along with signs that top researchers in Israel are eyeing moves abroad. “Many [Israeli scientists] are losing confidence and prefer to abandon ship,” the authors wrote. [Continue reading…]

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