22 Jul 2008   |   News

White paper looks to future of Germany’s Excellence Project

The German Research Foundation DFG and the German Science Council have outlined their views on the further development of the Excellence Initiative.

The German Research Foundation DFG and the German Science Council have published a white paper outlining their views on the further development of the Excellence Initiative, set up in 2007 to improve the quality and international standing of publicly-funded R&D, beyond 2011.

The two funding bodies say they are in favour of retaining the three funding lines and of enabling fair competition between continuing applications and new applications. The white paper also proposes that total funding be increased for the next round by about 20 to 30 per cent, and that the financing options be made wider in scope for all funding lines.

A total of 39 graduate schools, 37 clusters of excellence and 9 institutional strategies have been funded under the Excellence Initiative since 19 October 2007. In this relatively short period the Excellence Initiative has shown it can provide momentum for improving the profile and structure of publicly funded research institutions. Not only has there been competition to get funding for the best science, it has also forced university administration and organisational bodies to be more responsive. And the German Länder (states) are supporting the Excellence Initiative with additional measures.

While all institutions have experienced some success, there have also been problems in the set-up phase, in particular in the recruiting of scientific personnel and in implementing of the new organisational structures within the universities.

Despite these teething problems, the research institutions have redoubled their efforts to form networks, to make their administrative structures more flexible, to be more international, to place greater emphasis on the promotion of young researchers, and 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.

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