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Academics and scientists warn damage from overhaul may be ‘irreversible’

In a letter to Netanyahu and to ministers of education and science, university heads and researchers outline ‘tangible risks’ to the future of the country’s tech industry

The heads of public research universities and members of the National Council for Civilian Research and Development warned Tuesday of negative consequences for the “future of scientific research” in the country due to the government’s judicial overhaul.

In a joint letter addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Education Minister Yoav Kisch and Science Minister Ofir Akunis, the academics cited “growing signs in the past months, and especially in the past weeks, that testify to destructive developments that could harm the scientific resilience of Israel.”

Among the signs are a “significant drop” in the number of leading Israeli scientists overseas willing to return for work, a reluctance by foreign scientists to attend conferences in the country, “explicit threats” to scrap research cooperation agreements, donors already having halted their funding to Israeli academia or having threatened to do so, a drop in research grants to Israeli scientists, and a “significant decrease” in research and development investment in Israeli tech.

“Because of this, many of them are losing confidence and prefer to abandon ship,” the academics wrote.

“There are tangible risks to the future of the startup nation. Our main concern is that the damage will be irreversible. This should be brought to the attention of the decision-makers, who are entrusted with maintaining Israel’s scientific excellence,  critical to our economy and security,” they added.

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Leaders of various scientific communities have taken part in demonstrations against the judicial overhaul in recent months and have threatened to resign in protest, including members of the health tech community and the nuclear energy sector.