Magazine article AI Magazine

The Israeli AI Community

Magazine article AI Magazine

The Israeli AI Community

Article excerpt

Israel is a young and a small country consisting of only approximately 20,000 square kilometers in area and a population of approximately 8 million. Since its establishment in 1948, The Israeli government has placed great importance on establishing excellent research institutions and universities.

As a consequence, there are eight universities in Israel, as well as a handful of research institutions and numerous colleges, and Israel has excelled in numerous fields of research. A clear sign of this is that Israel has produced eight Nobel laureates in the past 15 years, out of 154 worldwide. Computer science research in Israel dates back to the country's founding, and five Turing Award winners (out of 62) are Israelis. AI research in Israel has been firmly established since the 1980s, and there are currently quite a few AI research groups and labs in Israeli universities.

This column introduces the Israeli AI community and many of its unique attributes. It also covers a number of recent research projects in the field of AI that are done in different institutions within the country.

The Israeli Association for AI

The Israeli Association for Artificial Intelligence (IAAI),1 a member of the European Association for Artifical Intelligence (EURAI), is an umbrella organization for AI researchers in Israel. The primary goals of the organization are to promote the study and research of AI in Israel, to encourage cooperation between Israeli AI researchers, and to promote collaboration with AI researchers worldwide.

Israelis are known to be very friendly and they like to socialize. In addition, Israel's small size means that its two most distant universities - Technion in Haifa (the north) and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (the south) - are only 187 kilometers apart. As a result, many members of IAAI have strong personal and research relations throughout the country. Very often, Israeli AI researchers from throughout the country will organize mutual visits during which they hold research meetings, give talks at seminars, or participate in M.Sc. and Ph.D thesis defenses. Because of the country's small size, these visits can often be done in a day, without requiring an overnight stay or taking a flight.

Israeli AI conferences and workshops have a very important role in creating the unique atmosphere of the Israeli AI community. They are organized by IAAI in an attempt to strengthen the interaction and collaboration between the various research groups. IAAI symposia are held once or twice a year in various research institutions in the country, where the different AI groups present their recent achievements to the entire Israeli AI community and have valuable time to meet and collaborate. Special attention is given to students and to young faculty members, thus affording them an opportunity to introduce themselves to the entire community. A special slot is reserved for young students who had papers accepted to one of the top tier international AI conferences. Such students then have the opportunity to present their talk to the smaller domestic audience. Roughly 100 researchers participate in these events, enabling them to familiarize themselves with the latest achievements of their peers from around the country, and enjoy the very warm atmosphere the IAAI events afford. Figure 1 was taken during the last IAAI symposium at Ben-Gurion University, on January 25, 2016. The focus of the symposium was Israeli AI and cyber security.

Ever since 1989, IAAI has also held the biannual Bar-Ilan Symposium on the Foundation of Artificial intelligence (BISFAI), which is traditionally hosted and organized by the devoted AI group of Bar-Ilan University. BISFAI usually lasts for a couple of days in June. As a mini AI conference, BISFAI holds sessions on all areas of AI, including poster sessions, panels, tutorials, and invited speakers both from inside and outside of Israel. The program committees for all these events select high-quality papers for presentation, but the papers are not archived. …

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