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Dear Friends of the Weizmann Institute,Since November 2002, I have had the privilege of being Chair of the International Board of Governors of the Weizmann Institute, resuming a close association with this remarkable institution – as a member of the International Board and Chairman of the Feinberg Graduate School – which was interrupted only by my service in the U.S. government during the Clinton Administration. I had huge footprints to follow, after the decade of distinguished leadership and selfless service Gershon Kekst provided as Chairman. In its second half-century of service to the State of Israel and to the betterment of life in the world, Weizmann remains an international pacesetter in basic scientific research through scientific advances by a world-class faculty.
But Weizmann faces new challenges not of its own making, which require all of us to redouble our support. One is a budget crunch caused in large measure by the sad state of the Israeli economy, racked by over two years of Intifida II. As a result, Israeli government support has dropped dramatically, from nearly 50 percent of Weizmann’s budget to 39 percent. There is no bottom in sight, as further fiscal stringency measures by the government force rapid responses by Weizmann’s leadership. With no traditional student body, Weizmann cannot resort to an increase in tuition fees. In addition, some in the Israeli government seem to de-emphasize the importance of support for higher education in Israel, failing to recognize that with few natural resources, Israel’s greatest resource is a highly educated citizenry. Weizmann has been a major contributor to Israel’s high-tech success. This must not be imperiled.
Dear Members of the Weizmann Institute Family, I shall begin this message by wishing this country in general and the Weizmann Institute in particular new possibilities and a better year as changes in the Middle East take place. Unfortunately, our longtime friend Hanan Bar-On, who rendered untold service to Israel and science, both as a key foreign policy player and as advisor to three Institute presidents, recently passed away and will no longer be with us.
From my desk at the Weizmann Institute I enjoy a singular vantage point, one that enables me to observe the Institute both from within and from without, to see at one and the same time its intimate workings and the world beyond. As I look inward, I see scientific activity that thrives, a wellspring of original ideas, innovation and invention. We are in the midst of great momentum in numerous fields that are in the vanguard of scientific research, such as nanotechnology, biological physics and stem cell research. Institute scientists publish their results in the world’s most esteemed journals, are awarded prestigious prizes and receive significant honors for outstanding achievement. Recent honors include the A.M. Turing Award, to be presented to Prof. Adi Shamir this summer, and the election of Prof. Ada Yonath as a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
The abundance of creativity fills me with pride in the present and great hope for the future. Regarding research grants, the rate at which our scientists receive such grants from foundations is high compared to similar institutes of scientific research. Our commercial arm, Yeda Research and Development Company, continues to do
At the same time, however, the economic situation, both worldwide and in Israel, casts a dark shadow over our ability to sustain this surge of accomplishments. The Israeli government has reduced its allocation to institutes of higher education by 10 percent. Consequently, we have had to trim the Institute’s budget by 10 million dollars, reduce the subsidy of our research services and make additional personnel cuts. Nor is the end of the crisis in sight. Yet despite the difficulties, and with an unbroken commitment to the future, we have decided not to curtail the absorption packages offered to young scientists.