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 Skip Navigation LinksHome > Newsletter > Spring Edition 2015 > NSF Partnership  
Newsletter Funding Expands with new Partnership
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From left, Mina Teicher, former BSF board member, Cora Marrett, former NSF Acting Director, and Yair Rotstein, BSF Executive Director
“Israeli scientists cannot survive without outside partnerships,” related Yair Rotstein, Executive Director of the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF). “And, we had been wrestling for a long time with the shrinking buying power of the BSF endowment. A few years ago, through Israeli resources, I was given new financial support with the caveat that I find matching funds from American partners. Our board member Dr. Clifford Gabriel was associated with the United States’ National Science Foundation (NSF) and he helped me create a new innovative partnership.”

“It was a natural fit,” explained Rotstein, “Most Israeli scientists go to graduate school or for their post-doc in the United States. To be competitive, they must study outside of Israel to get an Israeli professorship. In addition, American scientists realize that cooperation with outside scientists is very important. Israeli scientists like the American system. Both are based on hard work, the scientists from both countries work alike and think alike, the match is really perfect.”

Further, Rotstein relayed that some 250 international companies conduct research and development in Israel including such American companies as Intel, Microsoft, Google, IBM, HP and others. The United States gains from contact with Israel and cooperation in scientific research is just another indication of these two countries working successfully hand in hand.

Meetings between Rotstein and NSF division directors resulted in a funding partnership that was launched in 2012. The structure was very simple, the NSF funds the American scientist and the Israeli scientist is funded from the BSF, using funds received from the Israeli Finance Ministry and the Israeli Council for Higher Education for this purpose.

Said Cora Marrett, then acting Director of the NSF, of the BSF-NSF partnership while speaking at the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC in 2014, “We need to build on BSF’s past successes, leveraging these successes to deepen our collaborations and nurture the next great achievements of U.S.¬ and Israeli researchers. One way to do this, especially in an era of tight budgets, is to support innovative partnerships. One such BSF partnership examples are the BSF-NSF Joint Programs in Chemistry, Biology, and Computer Science. These types of partnerships expand the reach of both funding agencies in a manner that provides for scientific excellence and deeper scientific collaborations.”

Today there are some 10 areas of research in which active joint funding has begin, or is in the works, including physics, material sciences, biology, oceanography, computer science, neuroscience, renewable energy, and cyber security.

To receive funding, the American scientist submits a funding application to the NSF, but unlike a conventional NSF application, it includes a description of the planned cooperation with the Israeli partner. In parallel, the American and the Israeli scientists jointly submit the same application to the BSF. Both applications are reviewed at the NSF, usually by panels of experts that include Israelis. If successful, the U.S scientist is awarded a regular NSF grant, while the Israeli collaborator receives a grant from the BSF. The combined grant results in a much larger overall grant to the joint research project. Said Rotstein, “In this day and age in which support for science is getting harder and harder to obtain, the combined grants permit more and potentially better science to be accomplished.”

There had been growing competition for cooperative scientific research with Israeli scientists from counterparts in Europe and other nations. Given the opportunity, Israeli scientists will almost always prefer a U.S collaboration as the science is often better in the U.S. and the work culture is similar to the Israeli one. “Our new NSF program helped develop the relationships between Israeli and American scientists,” said Rotstein. “This was a real plus of our new funding partnership with the NSF; Israeli scientists have a new avenue of funding to work with their American counterparts.”

In 2012, Prof. Rivka Carmi, MD, then Chair of the Association of University Heads in Israel and current President of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev said of this program then in its infancy, “The new BSF-NSF research partnership is a vital and dynamic step in opening new possibilities for the scientific community. The NSF’s financial commitment will provide the firepower to enlarge research projects and accelerate research outcomes. It is my strong belief that the BSF- NSF research partnership offers a unique opportunity to strengthen the scientific ties between our two countries. I congratulate the BSF for its vision and even more for taking action!”

“I’m happy to report that the program is going very well,” said Rotstein. “This new program opens up more financial resources for BSF funded scientists and serves to enhance research cooperation between Israeli and American scientists. It has allowed us to meet our strategic goal of expanding crucial scientific cooperation. The BSF-NSF partnership has become very important to both Israeli and American scientists and allows for even more cooperative research.”
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