US – Israel academic collaboration increases dramatically

This is a republication of an original article written by Jacob Baime, the Executive Director of Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), in the Times of Israel blogs on Tuesday, December 6, 2016.

Andrew Hamilton, the president of New York University, recently said it best by speaking truth to malice and defending American academia’s independence. After his school’s graduate student union voted to boycott Israeli institutions of higher education, Hamilton said:

“A boycott of Israeli academics and institutions is contrary to our core principles of academic freedom, antithetical to the free exchange of ideas, and at odds with the University’s position on this matter, as well as the position of GSOC’s parent union. NYU will not be closing its academic program in Tel Aviv, and divestment from Israeli-related investments is not under consideration.”

Over the last decade, pro-BDS groups, which want American colleges to sever all ties with Israel universities, have been calling for boycotts. Some anti-Israel academic boycott campaigns have targeted universities, like NYU, and others have been mounted by academic professional associations, such as the American Anthropological Association, demanding severing all ties with their counterparts in Israel. In each case the attack against academic collaboration ratchets up in volume, if not in effect.

But the difference between the BDS white noise and reality couldn’t be starker. Nor should it come as a surprise. By an overwhelming number, American and Israel universities have actually accelerated their academic collaboration over the last decade and are working more closely together in all academic disciplines.

A new independent study conducted by the prestigious Samuel Neaman Institute using data retrieved from academic databases, reports that academic collaboration between US and Israeli universities increased by 45 percent in the prior decade — despite aggressive, well-funded campaigns to stifle joint research.

In fact, since 2006, American and Israel academics have published more than 40,000 joint publications. When the Israel on Campus Coalition wanted to discover the facts about whether BDS was having any negative effect on academic freedom, we were pleased to partner with the Samuel Neaman Institute for National Policy Research at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. We wanted to get the facts and put them before the public. The Neaman Institute fit that bill.

What this landmark report shows is that the relationship between American and Israeli universities is stronger than ever. At a time when Israel’s detractors are calling for academic boycotts across the nation, the American university and its faculty have been undeterred in their work to solve some of the worlds most intractable problems by working with closely their Israeli counterparts to advance knowledge.

Dr. Daphne Getz, the lead researcher for the Samuel Neaman Institute, says that this in-depth study shows the deep bond between American and Israeli academics is vital for the advancement of research in medicine, physics, biochemistry, agriculture, computer science, and many other disciplines. She expects these collaborations to continue to grow at a significant pace in the months and years ahead.

The highest number of joint US-Israel publications are in the field of Medicine, followed by Physics and Astronomy, Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology, Computer Sciences, Mathematics, Engineering, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Social Sciences, Material Sciences and Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Here are some of the study’s other highlights:

And there’s one more piece of good news in the Neaman study. We found that the number of American students who attended Israeli universities increased by 78% from the 2004 through 2014.

These are the facts. The winners are American and Israeli academic collaboration, millions of people around the world who benefit from their work, and the students who decide with their feet that it’s a good thing to spend time at an Israeli university.

About the Author

Jacob Baime is Executive Director of Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), which unites and empowers pro-Israel campus organizations, providing strategic coordination and expertise to strengthen support for Israel.