NSF-BSF partnership adds three program areas


Nicholas Anderson, NSF’s program director for physical and dynamic meteorology, and Anjuli Bamzai, Director of NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences in front of a mural at NSF’s Washington D.C. headquarters.

Adding to an already successful and far-reaching collaboration, BSF and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) have expanded their partnership to include three additional program areas: mathematical, astronomical, and atmospheric/geospace sciences. These latest agreements are in addition to the 12 NSF division programs and 3 interdivisional programs (two of which involve the NIH as well) that already jointly fund a wide spectrum of scientific research between the two countries.

“We are very proud of this because no other nation has this kind of partnership with the NSF,” said BSF Executive Director Yair Rotstein. “Israel is now the NSF’s most active international co-funding partner.”

For Israeli researchers, this means significant increases in research opportunities with American scientists and researchers. It also  strengthens Israel’s international standing as an important hub of scientific learning and innovation.

“Israel is a small country with a lot of scientific expertise in many fields and we are very excited about the possibilities for future NSF-BSF projects,” said Lara Campbell, Program Director for the NSF’s Office of International Science and Engineering. Campbell oversees NSF partnerships with Middle East and African nations.

By expanding the partnership to scientists and researchers specializing in atmospheric sciences, astrophysics, geospace, and mathematics, there will be promising collaborations in fields where Israelis have continually excelled.

“We really appreciate BSF’s flexibility,” Campbell said. “BSF is able to delegate the review process to NSF and concur with our funding decisions. This allows BSF funding to flow to the latest, newest areas of research.”

Astrophysics is a prime example of Israel’s forward-thinking approach to scientific innovation, said Richard Green, Director of NSF’s Division of Astronomical Sciences. Green said Israeli colleges and universities are heavily engaged in multi-messenger astrophysics, a relatively new discipline. With more traditional methods of astronomy, scientists record electromagnetic radiation, such as visible light, radio waves or X-rays, to learn about the universe. Multi-messenger astrophysics allows researchers to go beyond the limits of existing telescopes, thanks to the new ability to detect gravitational waves, neutrinos and ultra-high-energy cosmic rays. These “extrasolar messengers” carry information that could provide key insights into the properties and processes of the physical universe.

“This is an exciting and rapidly expanding field, and it’s a promising investment to create partnerships with Israelis who are already leaders in this area,” Green said. “I know that many U.S. astronomers are going to be very pleased about the idea of working with Israeli astronomers.”

Paul Filmer

Anjuli Bamzai, Director of NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, said that, along with giving U.S. scientists  the flexibility to work with scientists from institutions in Israel, the expansion will provide possibilities for collaboration with scientists in other NSF-BSF supported fields.

“For example, it will open up new opportunities to partner with Richard’s division (astronomical sciences) as our divisions have scientists already working on  problems of mutual interest ,” Bamzai said. “It will be very exciting to see what the teams of prospective applicants come up with.”

The atmospheric sciences include meteorology. Nicholas Anderson, NSF’s program director for physical and dynamic meteorology, said scientists in Israel have provided key discoveries in several areas, including studies of aerosols, clouds and lightning.

“The track record of Israelis is very impressive, and we look forward to helping support partnerships in these areas,” he said.

A five-year commitment from the Israeli government ensures continuity of funding by the BSF to the Israelis in these joint programs.

“This is such a critical element, because it’s important for us to know that there is definite commitment from a partnership nation,” said NSF Program Director Paul Filmer. Filmer will be taking over coordination of NSF’s engagement with BSF from Campbell this fall.

The NSF-BSF grants also give lead investigators and researchers opportunities to travel to their partner’s home nations and work face-to-face in each other’s labs. Even in this age of international teleconferences and messages, in-person connections are still critical.

“This science diplomacy is always beneficial,” said Anderson. “You are actually in your partner’s culture. And when you are working in person, there are a lot more opportunities to think of things that you probably would not have come up with otherwise.”

For more information, including details on all NSF-BSF programs and grant submission guidelines, visit our NSF-BSF page.