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The second wave of the centers of excellence (I-CORE) is underway: the steering committee decided on the establishment of 11 additional centers of excellence

Of the 11 new centers, 4 will deal with research topics in the humanities and social sciences and 7 with research topics in exact sciences, engineering and life sciences and medicine

Minister of Education Gideon Sa'ar and Chairman of the Technical University Prof. Manuel Trachtenberg at a press conference on the occasion of the announcement of the program for centers of excellence. Photo: Avi Blizovsky
Minister of Education Gideon Sa'ar and Chairman of the Technical University Prof. Manuel Trachtenberg at a press conference on the occasion of the announcement of the program for centers of excellence. Photo: Avi Blizovsky

The Minister of Education and Chairman of the National Assembly Gideon Sa'ar, and Chairman of the Committee for Planning and Budgeting, Prof. Manuel Trachtenberg announced today the winning groups for the establishment of 11 centers of excellence as part of the second wave of the program. Discussions regarding several additional requests to establish centers are in progress and will be decided in the near future.

Of the 11 new centers, 4 will deal with research topics in the humanities and social sciences and 7 with research topics in exact sciences, engineering and life sciences and medicine. The centers will be established already during the current year (2013), with the date of operation of each to be determined later. Also, it is possible that the establishment of additional centers, whose proposals are still under discussion, will be announced later this year.

The second wave is another and central phase in the Centers of Excellence program and is an important pillar in the multi-year plan for the higher education system - a plan whose goal is to strengthen the research position of the State of Israel in an infrastructural and long-term way. The government's decision on the establishment of the Centers of Excellence program was adopted in March 2010 (Government Decision No. 1503 of March 14.3.2010, 2011). As part of the program, the first four centers of excellence (the first wave) began operating already in October XNUMX, in the study of cognitive sciences, algorithms, solar energy and the genetic basis of human diseases.

The 26 complete proposals within the second wave submitted in 17 fields were evaluated by international judging committees, in a process managed by the National Science Foundation. The high quality of all the proposals and in particular the winners, as reflected in the reports of the judging committees, is a certificate of honor for research and researchers in the State of Israel.

The 15 centers of excellence on which a positive decision was made at this stage - those that arose in the first wave and those that will be established as part of the second wave - will promote innovative and ground-breaking research in a variety of fields, will establish research collaborations between institutions in Israel and internationally, will assist in the absorption of excellent new researchers and pave the way for the training of the future generation the outstanding of researchers in Israel, by establishing inter-institutional schools for advanced studies (Joint Graduate Schools).

Below is a list of the 11 research groups that the steering committee announced as winners at this stage and a list of the research areas in which they will be engaged:

  • The study of Jewish culture in the modern era - a group under the scientific management of Prof. Richard Cohen from the Hebrew University and in collaboration with researchers from the Hebrew University, Bar-Ilan University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Tel Aviv University.
  • Education and the new information society - a group under the scientific management of Prof. Yael Kelly from the University of Haifa and in collaboration with researchers from the University of Haifa, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the Technion and the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center.
  • Empirical law - a group under the scientific management of Prof. Ilana Ritov from the Hebrew University and in collaboration with researchers from the Hebrew University and the Technion.
  • Researching mass trauma - a group under the scientific management of Prof. Zehava Solomon from Tel Aviv University and in collaboration with researchers from Tel Aviv University, Bar Ilan University, the Hebrew University, the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center.
  • The Quantum Universe: Particles and Astroparticles - a group under the scientific direction of Prof. Yosef Nir from the Weizmann Institute of Science and in collaboration with researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and the Technion.
  • Light and Matter - a group under the scientific direction of Prof. Mordechai Segev from the Technion and in collaboration with researchers from the Technion and the Weizmann Institute of Science.
  • Astrophysics: From the Big Bang to the Stars - a group under the scientific direction of Prof. Zvi Piren from the Hebrew University and in collaboration with researchers from the Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, the Technion and the Weizmann Institute of Science.
  • Chromatin and RNA in genetic regulation - a group under the scientific direction of Prof. Nir Friedman from the Hebrew University and in collaboration with researchers from the Hebrew University, Bar-Ilan University, the Technion, the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Sheba Medical Center.
  • Structural biology of the cell - biophysics and medical technologies - a group under the scientific direction of Prof. Gideon Schreiber from the Weizmann Institute of Science and in collaboration with researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Tel Aviv University and the Technion.
  • Plant adaptation to the changing environment - a group under the scientific management of Prof. Hillel From from Tel Aviv University and in collaboration with researchers from Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the Hebrew University and the Weizmann Institute of Science.
  • Physical approaches to dynamic processes in living systems - a group under the scientific management of Prof. Amit Meler from the Technion and in collaboration with researchers from the Technion, Bar-Ilan University, the Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

 

As part of the first wave of the program, the first four centers began their operations in 2011 (October XNUMX) in the following areas:

  • Center for the study of gene regulation in complex human diseases - a group headed by Prof. Haim Sider from the Hebrew University. The group includes researchers from the Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, Bar Ilan University, Sheba Medical Center and Hadassah Medical Center.
  • Center for the Study of Cognitive Processes - a group led by Prof. Yadin Dodai from the Weizmann Institute. The group includes researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv University, Emek Jezreel College and Sourasky Medical Center.
  • Center of Excellence in Algorithm Research - a group headed by Prof. Yishai Mansour from Tel Aviv University. The group includes researchers from Tel Aviv University, the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Hebrew University.
  • Israeli Consortium for Solar Fuels - a group led by Prof. Gideon Gerder from the Technion. The group includes researchers from the Technion, the Weizmann Institute of Science and Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

The response of the Hebrew University
The Hebrew University will scientifically manage four of the 11 centers of excellence (I-CORE) that will be established as part of the MLA program - this was announced yesterday (January 30) by Minister of Education and MLA Chairman Gideon Sa'ar and Chairman of the Planning and Budgeting Committee Prof. Manuel Trachtenberg.

The selection of the centers was made through an evaluation and judging process by the National Science Foundation, which established international judging committees, which examined the 67 proposals for research centers put forward by the institutions of higher education in Israel. From the 11 proposals selected, it appears that the Hebrew University is the leading institution in the management and direction of these centers: four of them are directly managed by its researchers, and it also takes part in four more. The president of the university, Prof. Menachem Ben-Shashon said that: "The Hebrew University ranks first among higher education institutions in Israel, and in 53rd place in the world. It doesn't surprise me that university researchers are mobilized to improve and strengthen research in Israel and partner with such a large number of research centers. In this way, the university continues to fulfill its academic mission, this is further proof of the fact that the Hebrew University is the research leader in Israel."

The decision to establish the centers of excellence was made by the government in March 2010, with the aim of strengthening the research position of the State of Israel in a long-term way. The program was implemented in two waves: in the first wave, four centers were established, and now the establishment of 11 more has been approved, seven of which will be engaged in research in exact sciences, engineering and medicine, and the rest in research in the humanities and social sciences.

As mentioned, the university will scientifically manage the following centers:
Astrophysics, chromatin and RNA in genetic regulation, empirical law, the study of Jewish culture in the modern era. Also, the university's researchers will participate in the centers: mass trauma research; the quantum universe, particles and astroparticles; Physical approaches to dynamic processes in living systems; Adaptation of the plant to the changing environment.

The Technion's response

The president of the Technion, Professor Peretz Lavi, said after receiving the message from the Chairman of the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education, Professor Manuel Trachtenberg about the two centers led by the Technion and eight with the participation of its researchers: "Once again the scientific power of the Technion is manifested in a variety of scientific fields. I am convinced that the centers of excellence in which we will lead and in which we will participate will contribute significantly to Israeli and global science and through them we will bring minds back to Israel."
One center - "Physical approaches to dynamic processes in biological systems: from the level of the molecule to the level of the single cell", is led by Professor Amit Meller from the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering. It is about the ability to directly examine and investigate biological processes at the single molecule and single cell level, which opens up unprecedented possibilities for researchers to reach original and innovative scientific insights. "The study of the physical and biochemical properties of diverse biological systems, with unprecedented precision and resolution, allows us to reveal the essence of biological processes that is often hidden under noise and random fluctuations in the system," explains Professor Meller. "These innovative approaches were united together as a tool that enables a statistical description of biological processes and systems leading to a new generation of biological and biomedical applications. Our Center of Excellence aims to build a thriving scientific community in the fields of biophysics, and to bring Israel to the forefront of global research in this field while utilizing the strong human resources, establishing and strengthening advanced technologies in the field, strengthening and building research relationships with selected institutions in the world, and educating future generations of scientists in the fields these interdisciplinary".
The activity of the Technion Center of Excellence will be classified into three main topics that are related and complement each other: biomolecular processes, intra- and inter-cellular processes, and the development and application of advanced tools for biophysical research. The center will assist in recruiting young faculty members from MIT, Stanford, Caltech and more and will establish close contact with parallel centers of excellence in the US, Germany, and South Korea.
Another center - light and matter, led by research professor Moti Segev from the Faculty of Physics. The interaction between light and matter has occupied the scientific community in recent decades. During this period, the research on this matter developed in many directions, which are different from each other but also related to each other. Among the fields that developed during this period are laser physics and quantum and non-linear optics, while other fields, such as ultrafast optics, nanophotonics and high field physics are newer fields. At the same time, traditional fields such as imaging and microscopy have evolved to allow the use of light-matter interactions to achieve super-resolution in imaging, spectroscopy and metrology.
All these fields are interconnected, and the new center is designed to explore this broad field of light-matter relations.

In establishing the center, leading researchers join together to form an interdisciplinary team, which maintains a balance between experimentalists and theoreticians and between senior researchers - world leaders in their fields - and young groups that started a few years ago.

The purpose of the current proposal is to foster excellence in research and teaching in subjects related to optics, and to bring home researchers who have chosen to live abroad. Professors Moti Segev of the Technion and Yaron Zilberberg of the Weizmann Institute, the leaders of the program: "We formulated an aggressive recruitment plan that addresses both senior researchers and young faculty members, and we established relationships with leading researchers in their fields who are currently professors at places such as MIT, the University of Michigan, UCLA and Imperial College, with the aim of bringing them back to my country For the first year of the program, we recruited Professor Olaf Leonhardt from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, who joined the Weizmann Institute, and Dr. Nathaniel Lindner, who joined the Technion. Both are very talented researchers who are recognized in the world as having extraordinary creativity."

background

The call for the establishment of centers of excellence in the second phase of the program was published by the steering committee, headed by the member of the Faculty of Science and Technology, Prof. Shimon Yankelevich, in September 2011, and distributed to groups of researchers in Israel and around the world. The calling voice asked researchers to submit proposals in each of the 18 research topics selected in the humanities, social sciences, law, education, exact sciences, engineering, life sciences and medicine. The list of topics for the establishment of the centers was drawn up by the program's steering committee, after examining all the proposals submitted by over 1,200 Israeli researchers from Israel and abroad.

The process of evaluating and judging the proposals for the establishment of the centers was done by the National Science Foundation, through the establishment of international evaluation committees, which examined the proposals on a competitive basis while referring to the competitive advantage of each program in the fields of research. The judging and evaluation processes were carried out in two stages - in the first stage, 67 competitive preliminary offers were submitted and from these the top 26 were selected and asked to submit full offers.

The judging process, including the communication with the chairman of the judging committee and its members, the transmission of information necessary for the work of the committee and ongoing dealings with the professional judging committees, the coordinating committee and the steering committee, were carried out in full by the National Science Foundation, while maintaining the accepted procedures of the foundation.

The material received from the judging committee was presented to the steering committee by the members of the coordinating committee. The steering committee discussed these recommendations, examined the procedures according to which the judging process was conducted and the various aspects that came up in the summaries of the discussions in the professional committees regarding the emphases, strengths and weaknesses of each of the preliminary proposals and regarding their compatibility with the Centers of Excellence program policy. After the discussions of the steering committee, 26 groups were selected from among those 11 complete proposals that will establish the following centers of excellence.

The designated government budget for the program, which is allocated through VT, is NIS 450 million over the years of operation, and this is according to the government's decision on the issue that was adopted in March 2010 (government decision number 1503). Vat is also working to recruit strategic partners for the program, and the partner institutions finance an additional portion equal to half of the funding from Vat and the partners.

The operating model of the centers in the second wave

In the design of the second wave of the program, lessons from the first wave - the "pilot phase" - in which the first four centers were established, will be applied. In order to remove as much as possible limitations in the selection of researchers, the new centers allow associations of leading researchers in a defined research field, regardless of their institutional affiliation. Also, in order for the research in the centers to be focused and allow real synergy between the researchers, the number of researchers in each center is more limited than in the first wave, and adapted to the type of research in the center (experimental or theoretical). All this with the aim of ensuring the encouragement of excellence while maintaining a real competitive procedure.

In order to encourage research collaborations between the researchers partnering in the center from the different institutions, the program encourages joint research between the researchers from the different institutions, the joint supervision of research students by the researchers who are members of the center, regardless of their institutional affiliation. In addition, the program encourages holding workshops and unique teaching programs, including international graduate programs, holding and developing collaborations with industry and contributing to the community in the field of research (such as holding lectures for the general public or programs for school students).

The Centers of Excellence initiative - background

The Israeli Centers of Research Excellence program (I-CORE: Israeli Centers of Research Excellence) was formulated as part of the multi-year plan for the higher education system, and was presented to the government by the Minister of Education and Chairman of the Legislative Assembly Gideon Sa'ar and Chairman of the Faculty of Research Prof. Manuel Trachtenberg at its meeting On March 14, 2010. The program is managed jointly by the Planning and Budgeting Committee and by the National Science Foundation.

The steering committee of the program, headed by Prof. Shimon Yankelevich, a member of the OT, is responsible for planning and approving the principles of the program and its execution, for the process of selecting the research areas, and for announcing the selected groups for the establishment of the centers of excellence. The program's international advisory committee advises the steering committee on various issues, provides an external professional point of view to the program, and assists the fund in managing the evaluation process.

As part of the program, centers of excellence - leading research centers in a variety of fields - are established in a gradual manner. The centers of excellence and the vision that the program represents are intended to strengthen in an infrastructural and long-term way the research position of the State of Israel and its inherent attractiveness among leading researchers in Israel and the world. "Center of Excellence" is an association of excellent researchers in a specific research field, who come from among the faculty and research staff at the various higher education institutions, for the purpose of promoting in-depth, groundbreaking and innovative research in this field. The center serves as an anchor for research infrastructures and research teams in its field for the use of all the center's members, and enables optimal utilization of the scientific potential of the State of Israel.

Besides the use of advanced research infrastructures established and upgraded within the center, the researchers at the center benefit from a considerable budget intended for the center's ongoing activities, including international activities, scholarships for research students and postdoctoral fellows, use of equipment and materials, employment of technical and administrative personnel that provide services to the center.

In addition to the researchers who are members of the center who come from various institutions in Israel, new Israeli researchers join each center of excellence during the first three years of its activity and ensure that appointments are accompanied by generous grants - funding of research programs (for five years) and the purchase of equipment.

The goals of the program are:

  • Strengthening scientific research in Israel and establishing its status as a leading factor in the world;
  • "Restoring minds": returning outstanding researchers to Israel as a central tool for strengthening the research capabilities and academic staff in higher education institutions;
  • Creating a critical mass and strengthening the relative advantages in selected research fields in the various institutions;
  • improving and upgrading the research infrastructures in universities;
  • Encouraging academic innovation, including combinations between several fields of knowledge (multidisciplinary);
  • maintaining and promoting advanced teaching and training programs in selected fields;
  • Encouraging research collaborations between higher education institutions, universities, colleges and hospitals alike;
  • Strengthening scientific research in Israel in fields of systemic and national importance;
  • Cooperation with leading research institutions and researchers in the world.

 

One response

  1. It is good that these centers of excellence are being established, but if you are already investing so much money, you should have focused on centers of excellence in the natural sciences only. The social sciences and the humanities are respected in their place, but beyond the theories they have no practical results. Since so much money is invested, it is appropriate that it has practical results and will bear fruit for the benefit of the general public and in this case "there is nothing better than good money". In my opinion, beyond a certain amount of jobs that these centers will provide for the best among us, the supreme importance in the long term is to a large extent the practicality, za, the applied results of the sciences, while they are obtained, what to do, only from the natural sciences and not from the humanities (as they are called, hot air ) and not from the social sciences, the connection between which and the exact sciences is only in the name of science, but there is absolutely no precision in them at all.
    And to explain, I have a PhD in one of the social sciences.

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