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At the time of writing the State of Israel is having to suffer the slings and arrows of much opprobrium and prejudice, as well as frequent egregious misrepresentation. Unfortunately, official and unofficial attacks on Israel are on the increase, and they are painful to endure. But Israel is, to say the least, a very special nation. It has had to endure much in its 62-year history. Its people are brave, courageous and driven.
On our campus a rare feeling of quiet and harmony prevails. Everyone is able to carry on with the work they do, whether in science or education, with little or no interruption or disturbance. In the year since our last annual report we have welcomed back to the campus Tsachi Shariv in his new role as Vice President for Administration and Finance, replacing Gad Kober who has retired. Three new deans have been appointed.The new appointees are: Prof. Zvi Livneh, Dean of the Biochemistry Faculty; Prof. David Peleg, Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science; and Prof. Michal Neeman, Dean of Biology. They replace Profs. Benny Shilo, Zvika Artstein and Benny Geiger, whose terms have ended. All are outstanding scientists who have served the Institute well, and I’m sure they will continue to do so in the future. A number of new scientists, having completed their post-docs, joined us during the year. Our leadership expends considerable energy and effort to attract new young scientists of the highest standing to our team. In this regard four fully funded centers have been established at the Feinberg Graduate School, which should serve as an added attraction for suitably qualified science graduates who elect to further their studies with us.
A highlight of the past year was the award to Ada Yonath of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, attended in Stockholm by Daniel Zajfman and a number of Ada’s Weizmann colleagues. Much praise has rightly been showered on Ada and her achievement in many quarters, and we and the Institute continue to bask in her reflected glory.
The reforms to the Institute’s governance practices have now been implemented. The International Board has been pared down to its present level of 134 elected members and 37 life members, plus 13 ex-officio members.
We introduced the “Life Membership” category to honor those members who have given many years of very good service to the Board. The Executive Board of 38 members, ably chaired by Ido Dissentshik, convenes in Rehovot three times a year, the Management Committee of 12 members not less than six times a year, and the Assets Committee of 10 members 3-4 times a year. The Institute’s real estate assets will, in due course, be supervised by a suitably qualified and experienced team, to be assembled when the appropriate structure has been formulated.
President Zajfman is making good progress developing a program whose purpose will be to enable an interface between science and the humanities. This program, when implemented, will promote a better understanding of and solution to the problems scientists encounter – specifically in such fields as neuroscience and psychology, genetics and social science, among other disciplines. The program will be launched in Washington, D.C., in late October, when many leaders in science and the humanities will be invited to attend. Another promising initiative is the projected establishment of the Weizmann Research Council. Its principal function will be to match certain grants from external bodies that have been successfully obtained by scientists. The Council members will be the five faculty deans, who will evaluate and adjudicate the applications for matching grants.
The executive directors of our national committees have once again been energetic in their efforts to bring Weizmann and the work we do to the attention of the appropriate entities in their countries. In spite of the fact that national economies have not been overly favorable for fund-raising activities, our European team, headed by Dov Keren-Ya’ar, has produced record results. Israel Bar-Joseph is much respected by all the directors and is proving himself a very good leader of the team.
The first half of 2010 has not been an easy time for investment managers. I hope the second half will be easier, although I expect volatility to continue as long as uncertainty about government policies persists. At the end of June our endowment funds stood at approximately $1.5 billion. We have a first-class management team headed by Carla Hunter, and an experienced and wise investment committee. We do not expect the sun to shine at all times, but we do anticipate being able to ameliorate losses when markets turn negative and to benefit from the steady growth of the endowment over time.
Two matters that I am happy to report relate to two important sources of our funding. The budget of the Israel Science Foundation has been increased, and we detect a palpable change in the mood and attitude of the Planning and Budgeting Committee to institutes of higher learning. If so, this augurs well for the future.
Daniel Zajfman and his leadership team – Haim Garty, Israel Bar-Joseph, Tsachi Shariv and Mudi Sheves – have once again led the Institute magnificently, with commensurate results. I am confident that our Weizmann community is one of resilience and energy, and is well equipped to meet whatever challenges might arise in the year ahead.