What is a common theme between Tel Aviv University's (TAU) Curiosity Lab, TAU's Laboratory for Contemporary Urban Design, Bar Ilan University's Center for Advancement of the Status of Women, and Mitvim, The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies? All these institutes were started by Israeli grantees of the Fulbright Program after their return to Israel from the United States. The program offers numerous grants but is mainly known for its contribution to the cultivation of research students, as well as the doctoral and the postdoctoral programs.
Best research insitutions
The importance of research students of the highest standard of excellence and with connections to the best research institutions in the world cannot be overemphasized. Where are the best research institutions in the world located? According to the Shanghai World University Rankings (2016), the U.S. has 50 of the worlds top 100 universities, and eight of the top ten. The U.S.s increasing dominance towards the top of the list clearly attests to its global academic supremacy.
At present, Israeli scholars produce publications in impressive numbers and are engaged in international scientific collaboration. However, the future of research depends very much on the ability to train many more research students in general and postdoctoral fellows in particular. Although numbers are important, what is really crucial for the future of scientific cooperation is the quality of researchers and their connection with centers of knowledge. To put it simply, Israel's ability to further develop its research is strongly connected to the ability to link with American universities and research institutions, both by sending research students to the U.S. and by attracting American researchers willing to pursue their studies in Israel.
The number of research students (including postdoctoral fellows) in Israel in proportion to the entire student population is not sufficient and is below the OECD standard. The number of international postdoctoral fellows in Israel is significantly small, and more alarming is the tiny percentage of young American researchers among them. This is a serious problem, given the U.S. dominance discussed above. Attracting international researchers is an important goal in itself, but if Israel wishes to maintain the excellence of its academia and industry in the long term, it must attract them from the best research institutions of the world, focusing its efforts on the U.S.
Recruiting future leaders
Identifying future leaders and potential path-breaking scholars is not a simple task. The Fulbright Program, administrated in Israel by the United States-Israel Educational Foundation (USIEF), has proven itself an expert in the identification of academic excellence, and has been instrumental in the exchange of knowledge between the U.S. and Israel over the past 60 years. USIEF has devoted itself to the strengthening and cultivation of the vital United States-Israel relations. The foundation has been successful in doing so by identifying the future American and Israeli leaders, and recruiting them to undertake groundbreaking scientific and public work for the benefit of both countries.
Fulbright's Israeli alumni who brought back their newly acquired knowledge from the United States serve in the Israeli Supreme Court, manage Nobel Prize winning laboratories and write successful and influential scholarly works. Their American counterparts, who came to Israel and returned to the United States, currently serve as pivotal lawmakers, top-notch academics and prominent artists. Among its alumni, USIEF counts two Nobel Prize laureates and five Wolf Prize winners. This unparalleled success at recognizing our two nations' and the world's pioneers and leaders is what makes the Fulbright program a paragon of standards of excellence.
Bridge-building and leadership
USIEF's influence on the bi-national relationship does not end upon the fulfilment of the grants. Rather, the foundation endeavors that the newly forged relationships will continue in the long term. To this end, bridge-building, initiative and leadership are key criteria in USIEFs candidate evaluation process from the very beginning.
Once the Fulbright grantees return home, the relationship with the second country is continuous and vigorous. The grantees remain industrious and continue their collaboration with their counterparts in research, joint business ventures or the public sector. In addition, each new alumnus joins a robust alumni network of 3,000 men and women. Along with USIEF and its regional alumni chapters, the alumni continue to foster the strong academic and cultural relations between the United States and Israel.
The foundation and the alumni chapters organize workshops, lectures and symposiums, which bring together USIEF alumni and the public to partake in activities that bolster and reinvigorate the partnerships between the United States and Israel. Thus, USIEF's enduring role in the United States-Israel partnership serves as the epitome of investing in the future of the two countries.
For more information about the United States-Israel Educational Foundation (USIEF) and the Fulbright Program, visit fulbright.org.il