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Report of the Visiting Committee on Evolutionary Biology

Batsheva de Rothschild Frontiers of Science Workshop:

Evolution Report of the Visiting Committee

on Evolutionary Biology

January 3-8, 1999

The precarious position of research and scholarship in evolution in Israel´s universities was stressed throughout our meetings with faculty and students. In this report, we summarize what we learned from these discussions and our visits to laboratories in the university, and make suggestions regarding short-term and long-term steps that could contribute to improving the condition of this central component of biology in Israel.

Perceived problems and suggestions:

1. The greatest single problem of evolutionary biology in Israel is demographic. Within the next five years, a substantial fraction of the major evolutionary biologists in the main universities will be retiring.Suggestions: Develop programs to encourage and train current graduate students to take faculty positions; recruit exceptionally able early- and mid-career evolutionary biologists from abroad; coordinate current training of graduate students in the different universities.

2. Fragmentation of evolutionary biology over the different universities.Suggestions: Informal, frequent, regular meetings in evolutionary biology; the formation of an Israeli society of the evolutionary sciences.

3. Molecular and developmental biology and evolution are making major contributions to evolutionary biology.Suggestions: The application of tools of molecular biology to organismal evolutionary studies warrants expansion.

A national plan:A National Plan in Evolution instigated by the Israel National Academy of Sciences could summarize the state of the field and state priorities for future work, pointing out windows of opportunity. Such a National Plan would place a clear focus on evolutionary studies in Israel, encourage students to pursue a career in evolution and guide future studies into areas that would be important to encourage in this country.

A need for shared national facilities:Natural history collections provide a central source for the study of all aspects of evolutional biology. These collections suffer from a lack of funding and a dwindling pool of experts.Suggestions: The development and maintenance of a national facility for these collections.

Preparation of biology teachers versed in advances in biology, including evolution.
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