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Israel is giving science a more central role by re-establishing the ministry of science and technology and appointing a new science minister.

The country's new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, swore in Daniel Herschkowitz as science minister on 31 March. He is a professor of mathematics at Haifa's Technion Institute of Technology and former dean of the faculty of mathematics.

The Science and Technology Ministry replaces the former Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport established in 1982.  

Hershkowitz said Israel is abundant in one resource alone, human capital, and that it is vital for the government to take steps to stem the brain drain of leading scientists.

David Newman, a professor of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and editor of the International Journal of Geopolitics, told SciDev.Net: "Israeli science does not have the same global prestige that it had some years ago. This is partly due to cuts in funding by successive Israeli governments and partly because Israeli society as a whole does not value science and education as they used to."

He said the new minister should focus on increasing funding for research and improving conditions for young scholars.

Asked about the expected impact of having a scientist leading the science ministry, Newman doubted there would be any change, noting Herschkowitz's lack of experience in politics. He said other pressing demands for resources make it "unlikely that the government will place science at the top of its agenda".