Update | June 2022

28 June, 2022

Dear colleagues,

I’m happy to share some updates on what is happening at the University. We recently hosted two public events–a Government meeting and a speech delivered by the President of Ukraine—which again underscored our University’s special public status.

1. Awards and Recognition: Warm congratulations to our colleagues, recipients of the 2022 Rothschild Award: Ruth HaCohen (Musicology, Humanities) and David Weisburd (Criminology, Law). Two researchers from Tel-Aviv University also won the award: Nira Lieberman (Psychology) and Jeremy Cohen (Jewish History). This achievement is in addition to our success at the EMET Awards, where three of this year’s six winners are Hebrew University faculty members (Hermona Soreq, Ruth Lapidoth and Gideon Shelach-Lavi).

The new members of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities have been announced. Five of the ten new members are Hebrew University faculty members: Shulamit Elizur (Hebrew Literature, Humanities), Noam Nisan (Computer Science), Roger Kornberg (Life Sciences, Science), Michael Karayanni (Law) and Ronit Ricci (Asian Studies, Humanities). With them were also selected: Rachelle Alterman (Urban Planning, Technion), Ora Antin-Wellman (Physics, Tel-Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University), Meir Lahav (Chemistry, Weizmann), Leslie Leiserowitz (Chemistry, Weizmann) and Naama Friedmann (Education, Tel-Aviv University). We continue to be the dominant institution in terms of number of members of the Academy as well:  62 of the 143 members of the Academy (43%) are faculty members at the Hebrew University. Congratulations to Shulamit, Noam, Roger, Michael and Ronit for this well-deserved recognition of their excellent academic contributions.

We continue to succeed in winning grants for new faculty members from the Azrieli Foundation. The Foundation selects eight (and this year nine) outstanding faculty members who have begun to serve this year or are expected to begin serving next year, and each institution may submit up to six candidates. Last year, five of our university’s six candidates were awarded grants. This year, all six candidates who we proposed (newly absorbed Hebrew University faculty members), were awarded grants. The winners are: Anat Arzi (Cognitive Sciences and Medicine), Eran Belcher (Life Sciences, Science), Karma Ben Jochanan (Comparative Religion, Humanities), Ronen Gottesman (Chemistry, Science), Tom Hope (Computer Science) and Noam Siegelman (Psychology and Cognitive Sciences). These six grants, which fund a significant portion of the salaries of those absorbed in their first three years at the University, are in addition to eight more new incoming faculty members this year who were awarded the PBC Alon (and Maof) Scholarships. These accomplishments express the high quality of our new incoming faculty members this year.

We also attained fine achievements in grants for graduate students: Three of the six winners of the Rothschild Foundation's Postdoctoral Fellowships and 5 of the 17 winners of the Fulbright Foundation completed their doctoral studies at our University. We also attained excellent achievements in competitive scholarships for doctoral students: 5 of the 12 winners of the Clore Foundation scholarships and 8 of the 22 winners of the Azrieli Foundation scholarships are research students at the Hebrew University.

2. International Researchers: Following considerable efforts made by the Council for Higher Education and the Association of University Heads, led by the Vice President for International Affairs at the Hebrew University, Oron Shagrir, the Israeli Government approved the proposal to grant work permits for partners of researchers in academia. The decision applies to faculty members, postdoctoral fellows and doctoral students. The move is expected to increase the demand for researchers from abroad to join us. Further details are available from the International Office.

3. Equal pay for employees. In accordance with the provisions of the law, the University’s Human Resources Division prepared a report on the equality of salaries of women and men at the Hebrew University in 2021. The report is available here. The University’s academic staff organization is studying the data and is expected to help draw lessons from the report to promote greater equality.

4. Seminar papers. As part of their studies, students prepare research “seminar” papers. It provides students with skills such as conducting independent academic research and literature review, academic writing and oral presentation of research findings. It also provides an opportunity for personal acquaintance with a University researcher. There is a great deal of variation in this matter at the University.

In the Humanities and Social Sciences (the departments on Mount Scopus), nearly all departments require undergraduate students to complete one or two undergraduate seminars. The following issues (among others) require standardization:

  • A guidelines document should be established in each department (or faculty) for the teacher and the student. Criteria should be set regarding the work format, scope and expectations regarding the scientific contribution that results from it. As part of this, the grading components should be determined (for example, whether a grade is given for the lecture, for active participation and feedback to other students, etc.); submission dates for the papers; whether work is allowed for pairs of students (joint submission) and related aspects.
  • It is necessary to make sure that the course instructor provides guidance on how to write the paper. The guideline should include at least four steps: a) submitting the research proposal and receiving feedback on the proposal; b) delivering a lecture by each student to course participants and receiving comments on the lecture; c) submitting a draft of the work and receiving comments on the draft; d) submitting the revised version and receiving a grade, with detailed comments.
  • There are differences in the scope of credit points for a seminar. In some faculties, the instructor and student are given 4 credits, while in others, the students are given 6 or 8 credits (for the purpose of weighting the final grade, or as pertains to the quota of points for the degree). The Teaching and Study Procedure Committee will discuss the matter and examine the possibility of establishing a uniform arrangement.

In STEM (as well as in the Department of Statistics), the differences are even greater. While some departments require students to submit a seminar paper (in the fields of agriculture, pharmacy, bio-medical sciences, occupational therapy and nursing), in other fields (on the Ein Kerem and Safra campuses) there is no such obligation. In those departments, students are sometimes offered the option of writing a seminar paper, but there is no obligation to do so. I believe that this is an undesirable situation. Preparing a seminar paper is a necessary part of academic training, and as mentioned also provides an opportunity for personal advising, which may encourage students to pursue a graduate degree. I hope that the heads of the relevant units will initiate a discussion to examine a change in the current situation, as part of the move to encourage active learning. Faculty members are also invited to take action.

5. The Center for Interdisciplinary Data Science Research (CIDR). The academic directors of CIDR, Dafna Shahaf and Yuval Binjamini, invite the faculty to participate in interdisciplinary research. Here is their message:

The main goal of the CIDR is to help researchers from all disciplines find the tools, knowledge and collaborations necessary to analyze their own data. We wanted to let you know about some of our new initiatives.

  • We run a lab to support data-driven projects (across all disciplines), and we just hired a new chief data scientist. If you have a project and need advice or support, fill out the referral form on our website.
  • Coming soon, the "Tools and Problems" Conference: Have you built a new tool and are looking for applications? Do you have a problem and no existing method seems to really apply? Come tell us about your research or learn about the problems and tools of other researchers, and perhaps even find interesting collaborations. Click here to participate.
  • Do you have an interesting dataset that you want to make accessible (to other researchers or to the public)? Need programmers to build a website around it, or maybe just to help advertise it? Talk to us. You wouldn’t want your data to just sit alone in the dark, right? 
  • The Data Science for Social Good initiative launches in July! Student groups will participate in data-driven projects with the public sector and nonprofit organizations. For details, dssg.cidr@mail.huji.ac.il.
  • Our new physical space in Givat Ram campus is opening soon, and members of the Center can book our conference room. For instructions, email us.

Besides, if you don’t know us, here are some of our usual activities that might help you. For researchers:

  • We offer scholarships and grants to support your projects. If you missed the submission dates for any of our open calls, follow our website or join our mailing list (to join, reply to this email) to learn about more opportunities.
  • Class support: If you are teaching a class that deals with data analysis, we offer help in funding TAs and graders, advertising the class and opening it to students from other disciplines.
  • Want to be a member of CIDR? Write to us and we will take it from there: cidr@mail.huji.ac.il

For students:

  • Self-paced intro to data science class (MOOC): We offer a unique class for those with a basic background (for inexperienced but ambitious students) that lets students get their hands dirty and meet more people who are taking their first steps in data science. The class helps graduate students develop skills in data collection and analysis, at their own pace and tailored to their specific research. Learning is done in a guided and friendly group, encouraging progress. Look for class number 67876 in the class index.
  • Scholarships for graduate students in the core areas of data science: Follow the publications on the website and on our mailing list (to join, reply to this email) for information on the scholarships we offer each year to graduate and postdoctoral students.

Want to know more? On our website you can read about the Center's activities and vision, stay up-to-date on events, get to know the members of the center and more. If data science interests you, on the news page you can read about the research being done at the Hebrew University – from developing an algorithm that analyzes Holocaust testimonies (Hebrew), to tracking wild birds on their journey from Europe to Africa and back. Tell your colleagues and students about CIDR and help us expand our multidisciplinary community!

6. New positions at the University. The selection of academic management positions was completed. The elected faculty members will assume their positions on October 1, 2022.

  • Rector: Tamir Sheafer (who will replace the undersigned).
  • Dean of the Faculty of Law: Tomer Broude (the outgoing dean Daphna Lewinsohn-Zamir);
  • Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture: Saul Burdman (Benny Chefetz);
  • Dean of the Faculty for Social Sciences: Gili Drori (Tamir Sheafer);
  • Heads of Institutions at the Faculty of Science—Racah Institute of Physics: Nadav Katz (Eran Sharon); Einstein Institute of Mathematics: Jake Solomon (Tamar Ziegler); Institute of Life Sciences: Guy Bloch (Oded Livnah);
  • Director of the School of Education: Adam Lefstein (who joins us from Ben-Gurion University) (Moshe Tatar is the outgoing Director);
  • Head of the Truman Institute for the Study of Peace: Yuval Shany, and in the coming year, Ifat Maoz (Vered Vinitzky-Seroussi is concluding her term).
  • Head of the Israel Institute of Advanced Studies: Yitzhak (Itzik) Hen (elected for a second term);
  • Head of the Teaching and Learning Unit: Ilan Benshalom (Aharon Palmon is concluding his term).

Thank you to those who are completing their tenure (perhaps the well-known opening line in one of Avraham Ben-Yitzhak's poems is fitting here: "Blessed are they that sow, and shall not reap / For they will wander far away"). Thanks also to those who volunteered to fill public positions at our University.

As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions. Enjoy your summer!