Israel's Scientific Fall From Grace: Study Shows Drastic Decline in Publications per Capita

Yarden Skop
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The number of scientific studies per capita in Israel has gradually declined over the past few decades, according to a new study. While in 1991 Israel was number one worldwide in the number of scientific studies published per capita, by 2011 it had dropped to number 13.

The study by the Samuel Neaman Institute for National Policy Research and the Science and Technology Ministry’s National Council for Research and Development also shows a slight decline in the quality of research published. From 2007 to 2011, the latest year for which figures are available, Israel was ranked 15th in the quality of its research, while from 2001 to 2005 it was ranked 12th.

The study, headed by Dr. Daphne Getz, revealed that in 2011 Israeli researchers published 12,154 studies, which is 3 percent more than in 2010 but 2 percent lower than the high point of Israeli publications, which was in 2008.

The number of scientific publications per 100,000 people in Israel is 156.5, almost half the number in Switzerland, which leads the world in terms of scientific publications. In second place is Denmark, followed by Sweden, Norway, Holland, Finland, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Belgium, Canada and Ireland. Below Israel are Britain, Hong Kong, Austria, Taiwan, Germany, the United States and Spain.

The report also shows that Israel’s portion of the world’s scientific publications is also in decline. While in 2003 Israel published 1.29 percent of research, by 2010 that figure was down to 1 percent, and in 2011 it had declined to 0.96 percent.

“The figures should sound a warning bell,” Science and Technology Minister Jacob Perry said. “Without additional investment and over time, the status of science in Israel will continue to decline or will remain static, while the rest of the world continues to surge forward.”

According to the chairman of the National Council for Research and Development, Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel, “Israel is now reaping the fruits of its investment in science and technology made a few decades ago.”

Getz, who led the research, said a partial explanation for the figures is that the number of scientific studies has not increased and has even declined at some points, while Israel’s population continued to grow at a greater rate than developed Western countries.

Getz said one encouraging figure was that since the mid-1990s, the quality of publications from Israel was higher than the world average, and since 2000 the number of times Israeli research has been quoted — an index of quality — is higher than average for OECD member countries.

However, the study shows that Israel is below the OECD average in terms of quotes in eight out of 21 fields.

The number of scientific studies per capita in Israel has gradually declined over the past few decades.Credit: Bloomberg