Academics Fishing for Funding for Mediterranean Institute

The University of Haifa has established a basis for academic cooperation with Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute, a state-run center located in Haifa.

A new proposal to establish an interuniversity institute for research devoted to the Mediterranean Sea will be presented Sunday at Tel Aviv University.

The initiative, devised by the Ruppin Academic Center and a senior marine biologist at Tel Aviv University, Prof. Yossi Loya, is to be presented at a conference on the Mediterranean as a national resource. It has received the support of a sub-committee of the Council for Higher Education’s planning and budget committee, although the committee itself said it is still studying the proposal.

Loya, who organized the conference along with Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Micha Ilan and the Ruppin Academic Center, will present the plan.

“In Eilat, a four-kilometer-long coral reef has been the subject of several research projects, while Israel’s 190-kilometer-long Mediterranean coast significantly lacks research and data,” says Loya, who has devoted much of his career to the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat.

The lack of data is particularly problematic given Israel’s plans to establish desalinization plants, gas rigs and even artificial islands, along with the danger the cliffs along the shoreline could collapse, Loya adds.

“The government has no scientific body it can consult on these particular issues, though it does when it comes to Eilat,” he said yesterday.

About a year ago, the sub-committee of the council’s planning and budget panel began studying the request submitted by Prof. Shosh Arad, president of the Ruppin Academic Center, to establish the institute.

Prof. Moshe Mani, head of the sub-committee, said it had recommended the establishment of such an institute and that universities should compete over which of them would run it.

Loya hopes to advance the proposal for an institute, which would be jointly run by Tel Aviv University and the Ruppin Academic Center, even before the planning and budget committee makes its final decision. He wants to see the program established at Mikhmoret, north of Netanya, where a marine studies school, including a boat dock and laboratories, already exists.

Over the past few months, Loya put together a budget of NIS 15 million for 15 academic positions, which would be filled by researchers from various academic institutions but run under the auspices and funding of Tel Aviv University.

The University of Haifa, however, also sees itself as a possible leader for the new institute. The school has a long-term vision for the expansion and development of marine studies, says University of Haifa President Aaron Ben-Ze’ev.

“The university already has a marine studies school that includes marine civilizations, marine law and marine economics departments,” he explains.

The University of Haifa has also established a basis for academic cooperation with Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute, a state-run center located in Haifa.

Ben-Ze’ev says he is not familiar with Loya’s proposal and is now waiting for the planning and budget committee’s decision on how research on the Mediterranean may be expanded.