October 10, 2013 | 7:08 am
Two Israelis won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Is this a day of pride for Israel or a day of sorrow?
Pride was the first choice of many, but then came the second wave – the wave of bickering. The Prize-winning Israelis don’t live in Israel. They left Israel many years ago and work and live abroad. They live and work abroad like many Israeli scientists. They are the exemplary manifestation of the “unparalleled academic brain drain” to the United States, the one that was described two days ago by an Israeli research institute. The best and the brightest can’t make it in Israel- they can’t get tenure so they leave. That Israel is proud of them is no more than “a clumsy attempt to claim a scientist who left Israel more than 40 years ago”, lamented Haaretz writer Or Kashti. University professors and managers were quick to use the example of the leaving laureates to demand more funds and resources. Opposition leaders attacked the government for presumably not investing enough in “building serious academic infrastructure”.
I wrote extensively about emigration from Israel and the brain drain earlier this week and I don’t want to repeat myself (read it here)- just to remind the readers that Israel will always be a small country with limited resources, and thus is ever destined to lose some of its bright scientists to other countries, notably the US. The issue of "the brain drain" is a serious one, and it merits a detailed discussion of limitations and means. Prof. Sergio Della Pergola, a leading expert on Israel’s demography, wrote not long ago that “the issue of brain drain is a prominent and worrying feature on the agenda”, but also that Israel’s situation is “not unlike Switzerland and other societies of similar size and quality. Israel faces the dilemma of providing efficient training facilities, including highly developed higher education systems. Such countries tend to produce talented individuals whose numbers are appreciably larger than the absorption capacity of the respective local markets”.
But today I’d like to focus on the Nobel Prize situation and the responses to it with the following three comments:
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