This year, two Israeli institutions, the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot and Hebrew University in Jerusalem, placed first and second, respectively, among international institutions. What makes these two institutions great for scientists?
"What's unique to us," says Haim Garty, a biochemist and Vice President of the top-ranked Weizmann Institute, "is that the red tape is minimal." The institute's role is to provide the resources and stay out of the way, he says. For example, Weizmann has no undergraduate students, so scientists are less distracted by teaching duties. The Institute also offers its scientists a network of affordable core facilities, from bioinformatics to a proteomics center which provides everything from cloning to 3-D structure analysis, says Garty.
Second place winner, Hebrew University, stresses mentoring of young faculty, and actively avoids overburdening them with non-research tasks, says Hermona Soreq, a molecular biologist and former dean of the science faculty. "If a new faculty member is asked to spend most of their time on teaching or administration, they are endangering their whole career." Unlike Weizmann, Hebrew University does have about 2000 undergraduate students, but the teaching load is shared with graduate students, she says. Each new faculty hire is assigned a senior faculty member. To ensure the senior faculty is fully engaged, they must report their younger colleague's progress to the dean annually.
In Israel, family-friendly policies are the norm, says Soreq, noting her institution's on-campus day care facilities and breast-feeding rooms throughout the campus. A handful national grants, including a fund for "convergent technologies," focus specifically on interdisciplinary research. However, Soreq notes, seven years of budget cuts, has upped competition for research jobs.