4 of 11 new Centers of Excellence established by Israel’s Council for Higher Education will be managed by Hebrew University

The Hebrew University's Prof. Tsvi Piran will manage the I-CORE Center of Excellence in astrophysics (photo: Sasson Tiram)

The Israeli government has chosen The Hebrew University of Jerusalem to establish and manage 4 of the 11 new Centers of Excellence to be created in the second wave of the innovative I-CORE program. This represents twice as many centers entrusted to any other institution.

Of the 11 new centers, 4 will engage in research in the Social Sciences and Humanities, and 7 will engage in Exact Sciences, Engineering and Life Sciences and Medicine.

Israel’s Minister of Education Gideon Sa'ar, and Chairman of the Planning and Budgeting Committee Professor Manuel Trachtenberg, made the announcement on January 30, calling the winning proposals for establishing the research centers “a badge of honor for research and researchers in Israel.

The I-CORE Centers of Excellence program is a key component of the government’s Multi-Year Reform Plan in Higher Education, established in 2010 to strengthen Israel's academic research position and stature in Israel and abroad.

The government budget dedicated to the program is 450 million NIS over the years of operation. Strategic partners are being recruited for the program, and the partner institutions will fund a share of the equal to half of the government and strategic partners funding.

Hebrew University’s president, Professor Menahem Ben-Sasson said: "With The Hebrew University ranked first among Israel’s institutions of higher learning and 53rd in the world, it is fitting that our researchers have been called upon to strengthen research in Israel and take part in so many research centers. In so doing The Hebrew University continues to fulfill its academic mission and to serve as the country’s research leader.”

Sixty-seven initial proposals for establishing the centers were submitted, from which 26 were asked to submit full proposals. These were evaluated by the Israel Science Foundation via international evaluation committees.

Of the 11 winning proposals that received the go-ahead in this second phase, The Hebrew University will establish and manage the following:

-Study of Modern Jewish Culture: a group under the scientific management of Professor Richard Cohen of The Hebrew University and in collaboration with researchers from The Hebrew University, Bar-Ilan University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Tel-Aviv University.

- Empirical Legal Studies: a group under the scientific management of Professor Ilana Ritov of The Hebrew University in collaboration with researchers from The Hebrew University and the Technion.

- Astrophysics: from the Big Bang to the Stars: a group under the scientific management of Professor  Tsvi Piran of The Hebrew University and in collaboration with researchers from The Hebrew University, Tel-Aviv University, the Technion and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

- Chromatin and RNA Gene Regulation: a group under the scientific management of Professor Nir Friedman of The Hebrew University and in collaboration with researchers from The Hebrew University, Bar-Ilan University, the Technion, the Weizmann Institute and Sheba Medical Center.

- Hebrew University researchers will also collaborate on four other centers of excellence: Mass Trauma Research, Quantum  Universe: Particles and Astro-particles, Plant Adaptation to Changing Environment, and Physical Approaches to Dynamic Processes in Living Systems.

The centers will be established in 2013. Additional centers may be announced later this year.

In the first wave of the program, a center of excellence in molecular medicine was established under the scientific management of The Hebrew University’s Professor Howard Cedar.