Environmental Studies in Israel
Report of the Advisory Committee
to the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities
At the end of the twentieth century, science was faced with important challenges: the conservation of the world´s natural wealth, its rehabilitation and proper management. The branch of science dealing with this area is Environmental Studies. In this framework data are collected, the effect of processes and changes are studied, and solutions are sought for the rehabilitation of the planet and for the preservation of its expanses. This is a multi-disciplinary area, embracing various fields of science such as biology, chemistry, physics, geology, ecology, atmospheric studies, hydrology. Environmental studies is one of the central areas of importance in scientific research today.
The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities recognized the national value of environmental studies, and appointed in January 1998 a committee of scientists from various disciplines of natural and life sciences to act as an advisory committee and recommend ways for the promotion of this scientific area in Israel.
Summary of findings and recommendations:The Committee found that the field of environmental studies as a whole in Israel is in constant retreat. It is therefore imperative that the Academy act to integrate Israeli research in this central and important field within the framework of world research, and advance it to the forefront of scientific research.
The Committee found that in order to promote scientific activity in environmental studies in Israel, the focus should be on Israeli problems with possible extension to problems of the surrounding area, in order to cope with them and find scientific solutions. In the study of what transpires in Israel and its surroundings Israeli scientists have an advantage, and this may serve as a substantial contribution toward fostering environmental studies in Israel.
As environmental studies is a multi-disciplinary field touching on many and various topics, the Committee decided to concentrate for the present on three topics:
1. Water - quality of water; mechanisms and processes affecting the water system; development of quantitative methods for analysis of fluids and polluters in the soil.
2. Control - development of novel sensors; new control systems; distant sensing.
3. Solid waste - compostation processes; recycling of waste; pyrolysis and burning processes.
In addition, the Committee recommends consideration of the establishment of a national analytic center to deal with development of analytical methods and with the introduction of state-of-the-art instrumentation. The center will serve all Israeli scientists and contribute to promote environmental studies in Israel.
The committee recommends the promotion of research activity in environmental studies on four levels:
1. To set up a kernel of bright young scientists who will develop the study of choice topics in environmental studies.
2. Research grants: The Israel Research Foundation should consider giving priority to the above scientists upon their return from study abroad, by granting them research funds.
3. To invite first-rate scientists in selected topics from abroad, in the framework of workshops, seminars and conference.
4. To hold national conferences in this area, with a variety of participants.