Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Easy to get nobel prizes

 Just follow the Israeli example. I read an article in Metro about how difficult it is to get high ranking in QS university rankings. The QS rankings are based on the following:

1) Number of lecturers, no PhD required. Is it so difficult?

2) Number of foreign lecturers.

3) Number of foreign students.

4) Number of citations, i.e. quotations of papers published in Scopus but Scopus is expanding its lists of journals to include open journals, just like Google Scholar h-index.  Is it difficult to quote our colleagues works? Better still, just do what the Israeli do, i.e. give longer Sabbatical leave for lecturers so that they can get friends from outside to share research and thus get quotations from them or vice versa.

If you achieve all these, nobel prizes will be very easy indeed. If Israel with a population of 5million, many of who are Arabs, how can Sabah with a population of 3.5 million cannot compete with Israel in producing nobel prize winners?


A science enigma in Israel

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Dan Shechtman won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2011. Photo: R. Prasad
Dan Shechtman won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2011. Photo: R. Prasad
In all, Israel has produced ten Nobel Laureates, of which four were in Chemistry in recent years. Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, where Nobel Laureate Dan Shechtman works, is the first and smallest university in the country. Dr. Shechtman won the Noble Prize last year for chemistry for his discovery of quasicrystals.
It has another distinction as well. “Technion – Israel Institute of Technology has three Nobel Laureates in Chemistry,” said the Laureate to The Hindu during an interaction with journalists at the recently concluded 62nd Nobel Laureates Meeting dedicated to physics from July 1 to July 7 at Lindau, Germany.
Prof. Ada Yonath of the Weizmann Institute of Science won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2009, two years before Dr. Shechtman.
Despite being a small country, how has it managed to produce so many Laureates? “I don’t know the answer,” he said frankly. “I think we do good work. I think we encourage young talented people to go to science.”
Though he was at a loss to pinpoint the reasons, he did throw some light to what may be the factors facilitating his country’s success. “We have very good scientists in Israel. We publish many papers in many reputed journals,” he noted.
But the distinguishing factor that emerged is the way the scientists interact with their counterparts based in other countries. “We are encouraged to travel to other laboratories in the world,” he said. To facilitate this interaction, very vital for science, the scientists are allowed to avail sabbatical for period extending up to 6 to 7 years. “Every summer, if you want to go and work somewhere, they allow you [to go]. So we have many contacts in the world,” he revealed.
In fact, it was while Dr. Shechtman was on sabbatical at John Hopkins University and working with the National Bureau of Standards in 1982 that he discovered the existence of quasicrystals.
Availability of liberal funding is another critical factor. Scientists have several sources of funding to turn to — industrial, defence, government and binational funding. The binational funding comes from binational agreements — Israel-Germany, Israel-United States, Israel-England and others.
Another peculiar aspect is that the government does not fund universities directly. Instead, it provides fund to intermediate bodies, which in turn fund the universities. “So the government is not directly involved. We [are in touch with] the intermediate bodies and it is excellent,” he underlined.
“A good scientist who writes a good project proposal has a good chance of securing funding,” he said. “In my department, there are 16 faculty members and everyone has a nice chunk of research funds.”
But there are problems and all is not conducive to people taking up research. “There are many scientists who cannot find jobs in Israel,” he said. “Israel is a start-up country. Everybody thinks of starting a start-up. The number of start-ups in the country is enormous. The spirit of entrepreneurship is fantastic.”
According to him everybody communicates with everybody else in Israel. “Communication is good for science. People need to talk,” he said. “All these don’t answer your question [of how a small country is able to produce so many Nobel Laureates]. I understand that. I don’t know what the reason is.”
Sixteen students from India participated in the 62nd Nobel Laureates Meeting at Lindau. The German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) sponsored their visit.
(This Correspondent was one of the two journalists from India who participated in the 62nd Nobel Laureates Meeting at Lindau, Germany, at the invitation of the German Research Foundation (DFG) Bonn.)
Keywords: TechnionDan ShechtmanNobel Laureates MeetingLindauNobel PrizequasicrystalsIsarel scientists,

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