The United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) is a grant-awarding institution that promotes research cooperation between scientists from the United States and Israel. BSF was established by the American and Israeli governments in 1972 after much cooperative work by then Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin and US Assistant Secretary of State, Joseph Sisco. Its income is derived from interest on an endowment of $100 million and both governments contributed $30 million in 1972 and added another $20 million each in 1984. Starting in 2012, the Israeli government has pledged an additional $3 million supplement per year for the BSF provided matching support is given by the United States. An icrease of $4-$6 million in their annual budget will enable BSF to increase their average grant size by at least 25%.
Since its inception, BSF has awarded some $480 million to more than 4,140 research projects involving more than 2,000 scientists from more than 400 institutions located in 46 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Many of these projects have led to important scientific, medical and technological breakthroughs with wide-ranging practical applications.
BSF has documented no less than 75 new discoveries made possible by its research grants and counts 37 Nobel Prize and 19 Lasker Medical Award laureates among its joint partners.
Shimon Peres, the President of Israel, noted, "The support of the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation will prepare the next generation of US and Israeli scientists for a leadership role in our global community."
Most of the projects that BSF funds are in basic research; however, grants are also given to applied and technological research in Life Sciences, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences and Exact Sciences.. Proposals are submitted by individual scientists through their institutions, and are evaluated on the basis of their scientific merit, as well as the degree of cooperation. Grant requests can be made for a period of up to four years.
Proposals are evaluated by a peer review process. Assistance in the review and evaluation of proposals is rendered by science advisers. Advisers are recruited on a part-time basis from among senior research scientists in Israel and the U.S. Each of them is assigned a group of proposals in his or her field of specialization with the charge to select suitable referees. Final recommendations for grant awards are made by the science advisers' panels, together with the Executive Director, and are presented to the Board of Governors for approval.
BSF-sponsored studies are highly successful in achieving their two main goals: strengthening the US-Israel partnership through science and promoting world-class scientific research for the benefit of the two countries and all mankind. The BSF grants help extend research resources to achieve milestones that might not otherwise be attainable; introduce novel approaches and techniques to lead American researchers in new directions; confirm, clarify and intensify research projects; and provide unmatched access to Israeli equipment, facilities and research results that help speed American scientific advances.
As of 2001/02, pursuant to the Board of Governors resolution, submission of grant applications is on a split-program basis, namely: the eligibility to submit applications is limited, in alternate years, to either health sciences, life sciences and psychology or to exact, natural and social sciences. Prior to that, applications were accepted every year in all areas of research supported by the BSF.
In 2012, 463 eligible applications for funding were submitted for the Health Sciences, Life Sciences, Psychology and Biomedical Engineering fields. This is the highest number of applicants the BSF has had since it began its split-program in 2001.
In 2010, US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, voiced her strong opinion that US support of the BSF and other such binational funds between the US and Israel be kept and strengthened. As she told her Senate colleagues, "US-Israel collaboration and the work of foundations such as... BSF, have had a lasting and fundamental impact on our countries' economies and relationsip."
The benefits to the United States from BSF-sponsored studies include the extension and elaboration of research to achieve milestones that might not have been reached otherwise; the introduction of novel thinking and techniques that led American researchers to move in new directions; confirmation, clarification and intensification of research projects; access to Israeli equipment and facilities unavailable elsewhere and early access to Israeli research results that sped American scientific advances.
In 2013 the Boycott-Divestment-Sanction (BDS) movement gained a lot of headway and popularity in the United States, with major groups such as the Association for Asian American Studies, the Native American Indigenous Studies Association, and the American Studies Association backing an academic boycott of Israeli universities. World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking cancelled a trip to an academic conference in Israel in 2013, citing the boycott as the reason for the cancellation. According to the director of the BSF Dr. Yair Rotstein, this academic boycott of the Israeli sciences is "meaningless". He claims that it is just a ploy for media attention, citing the fact that the BSF continually grants an average of $16 million per year in awards to Israeli and American scientists working on joint ventures. A recent partnership between the BSF and the National Science Foundation to support research in biology, chemistry and neuroscience demonstrates that the US-Israel scientific collaborative relationship is growing unnafected by the BDS movement according to Rotstein. Another sign that the BDS movement is not affecting the science sector is the construction of the Cornell University-Technion -Israel Institute of Technology that is currently being build in New York City. Even though Israel may have it's differences with Europe and the United States, Israeli science and technology leads the industry and provides common ground for international cooperation. Officials at America's largest science-based association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, have stated that they have not been contacted about participating in the academic boycott.