The white paper published today announces the initial considerations of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the German Science Council on the continuation and further development of the Excellence Initiative. The scientific community deliberately chose this early date to deliver some proposals and to make a contribution to the public debate.
The key points of the three-page white paper represent the scientific community’s ideas on the continuation of the Excellence Initiative beyond the year 2011 as a process that remains competitive and guided by science. The DFG and the German Science Council are in favour of retaining the three funding lines and of enabling fair competition between continuation applications and new applications. The scientific community also proposes that total funding be increased for the next round by about 20 to 30 percent, and that the flexible finance options be made wider in scope for all funding lines.
The considerations summarised in these key points are based on numerous discussions with university managers, spokespersons of the clusters of excellence and graduate schools, the funded and non-funded scientists and academics of the Excellence Initiative, representatives of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the responsible state ministers, and can also be traced back to intensive discussions in the DFG and German Science Council.
To recapitulate: A total of 39 graduate schools, 37 clusters of excellence and 9 institutional strategies have been funded since 19 October 2007. In this relatively short period, it has been shown that the Excellence Initiative has the same significance for an institution’s profile and structure formation that a fresh breeze has for a sailing boat – it provides momentum. It has been demonstrated that the Excellence Initiative is not only a competition for science; it also brings out the best in a university’s administration and organisational bodies. The federal states too are not only striving for a higher education legislation that is more science-oriented, they are also supporting the Excellence Initiative with additional measures.
All institutions have experienced their first big successes, but there have also been problems in the set-up phase, for example, in the recruitment of scientific personnel or the implementation of the new organisational forms within the universities. At the same time, all expectations on the structural level have already been surpassed. The research institutions have redoubled their efforts to form networks, to make their administrative structures more flexible, to be more international and to place greater emphasis on the promotion of young researchers, on equal opportunities and cooperation. These are all major steps in the direction of modernisation, which show that the entire science system in Germany is undergoing a major change. All participants are agreed that the previously negotiated five-year funding scheme, which was to last until 2011, is not sufficient to firmly and effectively establish the newly created structures.
Jutta Hoehn | alfa
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