Since the State of Israel was declared, it has been obvious to every government that country’s most important economic resource is the human one. It wasn’t a difficult conclusion to reach. In the absence of natural resources, such as oil wells, and cheap labor, it was clear to Israeli policymakers that without investing money in education and R&D, Israel’s economic capacity would not progress.
Some policymakers turned their understanding into deeds. Others had good intentions, but achieved nothing. Some simply ignored this basic principle. A new study at the Samuel Neaman Institute for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology, headed by director Prof. Liron Nadav, shows that shows that the amount spent on R&D and the quantity of research in Israel are far from negligible.
A recent study by Dr. Daphne Getz, Hani Mansour, Prof. Dan Peled, and Marian Shumaf-Tehawkho indicates that national spending in Israel on civilian R&D rose 164% to NIS 23.8 billion in 1990-2004. In terms of purchasing power (the usual method of comparing sums in different currencies), Israel’s R&D spending grew 126% in 1996-2002, while GDP rose 29%. For the sake of comparison, Finland’s R&D spending rose 85% in the same period, and its GDP 36%, while in Ireland, R&D spending was up 40%, while GDP grew 64%.
The study also presents figures on the volume of scientific articles published, and their quality. An average of 1,549 scientific articles per million residents per year were published by Israel in 1999-2003. The study, based on a database compiled by Prof. Gideon Czapski, puts Israel just behind Switzerland in this category, and far ahead of the US, which averages 900 articles per million residents per year, and the EU (729 articles per million residents per year).
How much respect does the academic world have for the quality of research conducted in Israel? Indices for measuring the volume and quality of scientific work are not perfect, but various indicators have been developed in recent years. One widely used method is to use scientific articles as a measure of the productivity of scientific research, and the number of times the articles are quoted as a measure of the quality of research.
The Neaman Institute explains that in order to compare research productivity of different countries in every research field, it is customary to use the each country’s proportion of all articles published in the world in each field and/or the number of articles in each field per million residents. The study shows that Israel accounted for 1.28% of all scientific articles worldwide. The leading field in Israel was mathematics, in which Israel accounted for 2.74% of all articles, followed by computer science (2.22%) and physics (1.52%).
The study also counted the number of times scientific research was quoted in science and technology publications. It was discovered that Israeli research was most frequently quoted in molecular biology, life sciences, and immunology. Another important figure is the high proportion of quotes of Israeli research, compared with the global proportion. Israeli research is ahead of research in other countries in the proportion of quotations in almost every science and technology field.
The Neaman Institute study reveals a number of interesting statistics about the high proportion of women in the civilian R&D labor force, and in institutions of higher learning.
The study says that, according to figures from the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics and the European Commission, the proportion of women among R&D workers in Israel was 23.4%. This puts Israel in second place, behind Denmark, ahead of Sweden, Finland, and Spain.
Women accounted for 37% of all degrees granted in science and engineering in Israel, one of the highest proportions in the world. This compares with 38% in Ireland and 25% in Finland.
Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il - on August 18, 2005