Report of the Visiting Committee on FIRST
In 1997, the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities established an experimental program for the proactive funding of basic research FIRST (Focal Initiatives in Research in Science and Technology). This program was designed to complement the current national system of open, competitive, researcher-initiated grant applications, by proactively stimulating research in fields important for Israel´s science or of an interdisciplinary character.
At the initiation of the program, the Academy decided that there would be a review after three years, some time before the completion of the program.
The President of the Academy, Prof Jacob Ziv, appointed a Visiting Committee earlier this year with the following terms of reference:
1. To examine the rationale for establishing FIRST in the context of the Israeli system for supporting basic research, considering also the policies of the Israel Science Foundation and that of similar national systems abroad.
2. To assess the performance of FIRST during its first three years of active operation.
3. To advise the Academy on Israel´s need for continuing FIRST, or some variant thereof.
Conclusions and recommendations:
1. The Visiting Committee is strongly of the opinion that there is a need for supporting centrally initiated research in selected fields.
2. To ensure the continuation of FIRST type initiatives, the Committee recommends that FIRST become regularized as a specialized program of the Israel Science Foundation, but kept separate in function.
3. One of the primary functions of FIRST should be to identify those areas of basic research which are insufficiently developed and yet are of strategic importance to the country.
Another important function of FIRST is to support novel and risky research in all areas of science.
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