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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.
The ill political winds that have lately swept through the bastions of academic activity worldwide have manifested themselves in a boycott of Israeli scientists. Added to this, for some time now scientists from other countries have avoided visiting Israel. This escalating trend may result in a degree of isolation for Weizmann Institute scientists, which, in turn, may impede our ability to continue playing our part in the advancement of science. Against this background, the steadfast support – in every sense of the word – of the Institute’s friends is crucial. The Board of Governors, under the inspiring leadership of Stuart Eizenstat, plays a vital role in ensuring our future. I thank our new Chair for his great dedication and involvement.
Our supporting committees around the world deserve high praise for their efforts to assist us during this difficult period. This is particularly true of all those who contributed to the President’s Contingency Fund. All our committees have participated in this endeavor, including those that have recently renewed their activities in Latin America. The encouragement of the Institute’s committees in the coming year will be more critical than ever, for, as you know, there is no standing still. Unless we continue to move forward, we shall lose ground. To maintain its place at the forefront of scientific activity, the Weizmann Institute must establish several new research centers, and I profoundly hope that Institute friends in Israel and throughout the world who wish to see us maintain our position at the frontiers of international science will accompany us on this challenging mission.