Israel and US academic collaboration increasing, finds report

New report tracks the trends in joint publications and student mobility

December 13, 2016
Young man wearing yarmulke with American and Israeli flags
Source: Alamy

US campuses have witnessed ferocious disputes about the legitimacy of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel and the ethics of academic collaboration between the two countries.

But amid the strident rhetoric, what kinds and levels of collaboration have actually been taking place?

To answer that question, the Samuel Neaman Institute for National Policy Research, based at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, has issued a report on “joint academic publications” and “changes and trends in US-Israel student mobility”.

Over the period from 2006 to 2015, the authors note, the number of publications with “at least one collaborating researcher…affiliated with a US institute and at least one collaborating researcher…affiliated with an Israeli institute” rose from 3,439 to 4,979, an increase of 45 per cent (compared with a general rise in publications authored jointly by US academics and those from outside the country of 69 per cent over the same period).  

Over the whole decade, such collaborations were dominated by research in medicine (13,230 joint publications), followed by physics and astronomy (7,558), biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology (7,510), computer science (5,730), mathematics (4,926) and engineering (4,129). There were only 2,715 such collaborations in the social sciences as a whole.

Within this broad picture, a number of leading American institutions were prominent. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology had 1,835 joint publications with Israeli institutions over the period 2006 to 2015, followed by the University of California, Berkeley (1,697), Columbia University (1,596), Harvard University (1,451) and Stanford University (1,350). These figures represented between 2 and 4 per cent of their total output.

Several of these universities also witnessed a strong increase in the numbers of joint publications over the period surveyed.

Most striking was the case of Stanford, responsible for 79 joint publications with Israeli counterparts in 2006, 176 in 2014 and 263 in 2015. On the Israeli side, Tel Aviv University tops the list, with over 10,000 joint publications with US institutions in the past decade.

The report, titled US-Israel Academic Collaboration, also examined student mobility.

It notes what it calls “a moderate trend of increase in the number of US international students studying in Israel from 2004/2005 [1,617] to 2014/2015 [3,317]”, although figures for the 1990s were “considerably higher”.

In the opposite direction, “there has been a constant decrease in the number of Israeli students studying in the US”. One major explanation is “the relatively small number of [Israeli] student exchange agreements with US universities”, which “means that most Israeli students interested in studying in the US are required to pay a much higher tuition [fee] than in Israel”.

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