Tuesday, July 17, 2007

AvH's 10 point plan

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is the master of science networking among the German non-profit foundations. If you've managed to get one of their scholarships you become part of their brotherhood for a lifetime, including a membership card - Unfortunately I don't know about the secret handshake, since I've never even applied. The largest drawback of their scholarships is that one can only apply to a host who is also a member (Humboldtianer!), which was the reason for me to choose the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) instead.

However, I've just found that AvH came up with a ten point plan of recommendations "for making Germany more attractive for international cutting-edge researchers". Their suggestions make a lot of sense to me and I find the press release worth mentioning. Even though some of it (2./7.) addresses specifically German problems, especially the points 9. and 10. apply to many other countries as well, so does 4., and 3. is generally a good idea (that I too have mentioned repeatedly, and in my opinion an issue that will become more important the more complex and global the scientific community becomes). Let us hope that all these pretty word-ideas will have concrete consequences in the not to far future.

For the full text, see here. In brief the points are:

1. More jobs for scientists and scholars

On average, German professors supervise 63 students. This is more than twice as many as the average at top-rank international universities.

2. Academic careers need planning certainty: establishing tenure track as an option for junior researchers

German universities must take measures to plan the career stage between a doctorate and a secure professorship and make it compatible internationally. On the pattern of the Anglo-Saxon tenure track, clear, qualifying steps should be defined at which decisions are made about remaining at an institution.

3. Career support as an advisory and supervisory task of academic managers

Senior academics as well as university and/or institute directors must play an active role in human resources development for their junior researchers. Young scientists and scholars need careers advice.

4. Promoting early independence by taking risks in financing research

By international comparison, young academics in Germany have less scope for decision-making and action. Funding programmes for early, independent research must be strengthened. Especially for researchers at an early stage in their careers, procedures should be profiled for research work involving an unknown risk factor.

5. Making recruitment and appointments more professional

Appointment procedures must have an open outcome and be transparent. To this end, commissions charged with appointments must include external or independent expert reviewers. Good academics should be appointed quickly. Internationally respected universities can no longer afford to take years over appointments, particularly as universities and research establishments now actively have to recruit junior researchers internationally to a much greater extent than they did in the past.

6. Dissolve staff appointment schemes and adapt management structures

Rigid staff appointment schemes must make way for flexible appointment options, or be dissolved. Independent junior research group leaders must be put on a par with junior professors within the universities and in collaborations between universities and non-university research establishments.

7. Creating special regulations for collective wage agreements in the academic sector

According to many of those involved, the new wage agreement for the public service sector is not commensurate with appropriate remuneration for academic and non-academic staff at non-university and university research establishments. By comparison with other pay-scales, it is not competitive, either nationally or internationally, it restricts mobility, and its rigid conditions do not take account of the special features of academic life.

8. Internationally competitive remuneration

It must be ensured that cutting-edge researchers can be offered internationally competitive remuneration. The framework for allocating remuneration to professors currently valid at universities leaves too little scope for this.

9. Internationalising social security benefits

Internationally mobile researchers often have to accept major disadvantages or financial losses with regard to pension rights.

10. Increasing transparency and creating an attractive working environment

  • Academic employers in Germany must be put in a position to offer organisational and financial support for removal and relocation which is already the norm in other countries, especially when top-rank academic personnel are appointed.
  • Child-care facilities for internationally mobile researchers at universities and non-university research establishments must be expanded quickly and extensively. International appointments in Germany still often fail because there is a lack of child-care facilities.
  • Careers advice and support for (marital) partners seeking employment as well as so-called dual career advice or support for academic couples are required to attract internationally mobile researchers. Examples from abroad indicate that this does not necessarily mean concrete job offers ( which are often difficult to find), rather, intelligent counselling can satisfy many people's needs.
Related: See also The LHC Theory Initiative, The Terrascale Alliance, Temporary Display, and Temporary Display - Contd.


  1. //quote//
    The largest drawback of their scholarships is that one can only apply to a host who is also a member (Humboldtianer!)

    haven't thought there are golf club-like organizations even in science academia.

  2. you'd be surprised how isomorphic scientific organisations can become to clubs. I'm a member of some other organization (the DAAD I mentioned) and they still send me invites to 'Stammtisch'. It turned out there's even one in Kitchener/Waterloo! (Seems they haven't yet completely given up hope I might go back to Germany). Just yesterday I received an annual report from some other organization which comes with a long list of members and associations that you can potentially contact in whatever city you end up in. I have never actually done that but it's still good to know. In most cases it's just unnecessary. I've dropped in at physics departments without knowing anybody, told them I'm a physicist from the Dept. of soandso, if I could use their library access for a day or so. (It's easy enough to confirm online that I am who I pretend to be.)

    anyway, the advantage about the German network is it's by now pretty much international (Germans are everywhere). I don't know if there is some comparable US organisation with a network in Europe?





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