By Ofri Ilani
Israel ranks fourth in the world in scientific activity, according to data compiled for by the Council of Higher Education.
The data, which dates to 2005, puts Israel behind Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark in terms of the number of scientific publications per million citizens.
The report was released at a conference at Bar-Ilan University yesterday.
In 2005, Israeli scientists published 6,309 essays in foreign scientific journals. Following Israel were Finland, the Netherlands and Canada. The United States placed 12th, and Germany, 15th.
Of all the scientific articles published in 2005, 0.89 percent were by Israeli scientists. In 1997, 1.03 percent of all scientific articles in the world were by Israelis.
Israel's role in global scientific activity is almost 10 times larger than its percentage of the world's population.
Even more significant is the number of times the articles were cited by other scientists.
One of the most productive and cited scientist is Professor Avram Hershko of the Technion, Nobel Prize Winner for Chemistry in 2004, according to the report. Hershko published 148 articles and was cited more than 16,000 times.
Dr. Meir Zadok, director of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, said Israel's scientific success is due to the strict criteria by which scientists are judged here.
"Competition for positions is growing in Israel, and the promotion processes are very rigorous, so people publish a lot to get ahead," he says. "In addition, there are very strong traditions of quality in Israeli academe."
The Council for Higher Education's Planning and Budgeting Committee yesterday warned that new research centers around the world are threatening Israeli universities' status.
The reason for the relative decrease in Israel's scientific activity is the fast growth of research centers in developing countries, especially China and India, while the number of scientists at Israeli universities is dwindling, officials on the committee said.
"Israelis have written about 1 percent of the scientific articles in the world, and that is very respectable," says Professor Yehudit Bar-Ilan, head of the Department of Information Science, Bar-Ilan University, who headed the conference.
"The decrease in public funding for research will lead to a reduction [in scientific activity] in the coming years," she added.