Germany has a powerful attraction for national and international students and researchers. This happens also thanks to the programmes like Higher Education Pact, Initiative for Excellence and Pact for Research and Innovation, established by the Federal Government in cooperation with the Länder.
In cooperation with the Länder, the Federal Government’s Higher Education Pact, Initiative for Excellence, Pact for Research and Innovation, Quality Pact for Teaching and Teacher Training Quality Campaign have all reinforced the science, research and innovation landscape in Germany. The goal now is to maintain this strength and consolidate Germany’s position in the global competition. To this end, the Federal Government is raising the visibility of the country’s science and research system, while increasing the focus on excellence. The extension of the opportunities for cooperation between the Federal Government and the Länder, pursuant to the amendment of Grundgesetz Article 91b (German Basic Law, GG), represents an important element in this respect.
As a leading centre of science, research and innovation, Germany has a powerful attraction for national and international students and researchers:
Since 2005, the Federal Government and the Länder have jointly administered a ‘package of pacts’ – the Initiative for Excellence, the Higher Education Pact and the Pact for Research and Innovation – that has achieved significant advances in the research system. The Federal Government is now carrying on this legacy.
By continuing the Pact for Research and Innovation for the years 2016 to 2020, the Federal Government and the Länder are making provision for the financial security of science organisations. They are aiming to grant individual science organisations an annual funding increase of three percent, provided the legislative bodies allocate sufficient resources. Regardless of the permanent Federal Government/Länder financing basis defined in the implementation agreements, the funding increase will be financed exclusively by the Federal Government during this period. The non-university research and science organisations included in the pact have opened up forward-looking fields, strengthened their national and international networks and enshrined the transfer of knowledge and technology in their strategic mission. The combination of research policy goals and financial security has reaped tangible rewards.
The Initiative for Excellence has brought new energy and dynamism to the German science landscape. Research endeavours are outstanding in numerous fields, while many universities have realigned their strategic focus. The Federal Government firmly believes that fostering cutting-edge research at universities is the right way forward in international competition.
The international, independent expert committee commissioned by the Federal Government and the Länder to evaluate the Initiative for Excellence and its impact on Germany’s science system reached a similar conclusion. Chaired by Prof. Dr. Dieter Imboden, the committee evaluated the Initiative for Excellence in its final report, which was published on 29 January 2016, as a successful instrument for improving the quality and international competitiveness of the German science system.
On 22 April 2016, the Joint Science Conference of the Federal Government and the Länder (GWK, incl. the financial side) unanimously approved the draft of the administrative arrangement in accordance with Article 91b (1) GG to promote cutting-edge research at universities and resolved to submit it for approval and signature to the leaders of the Federal Government and the Länder for their meeting on 16 June 2016. The core elements of the arrangement are as follows:
The Federal Government and the Länder have extended the opportunities for cooperation in the research sector, pursuant to the amendment of German Basic Law. The Federal Government initiated the amendment to Art. 91b GG, meaning that, in future, it can engage in joint funding measures with the Länder to support not just non-university research institutes, but also universities.
Germany’s science system must attract brilliant minds and creative thinkers. Therefore, the Federal Government is committed to establishing working conditions and career prospects in the scientific community that are internationally competitive. The Federal Government and the Länder are currently negotiating a joint initiative that aims to make it easier for young scientists to plan their careers, while enhancing the transparency of the various steps.
The reform of the Academic Fixed-Term Contract Act (Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz) initiated by the Federal Government entered into force on 18 March 2016. The reform is designed to improve the management of fixed-term regulations in an academic context and is directed at improper short-term contracts in particular. In future, the duration of fixed-term contracts for scientific personnel must be commensurate with the intended qualification; where the limitation is due to third-party funding, it should be based on the approved project duration. This amendment counteracts the undesirable developments in the practice of issuing fixed-term contracts, without prejudicing the essential flexibility and dynamism of the research sector; moreover, it underpins the activities of universities and research institutes, thereby improving the conditions of employment for young scientists.
The departmental research conducted by the Federal Government at the interface of science, society, politics and industry is an indispensable component of the country’s science system. Departmental research is carried out by 38 federal institutions with R&D responsibilities, together with seven non-university R&D organisations, working within a framework of continuous collaboration. By functioning as an interface, they contribute substantially to the success of relevant social, political and economic innovation processes. The various institutes and organisations meet the departments’ R&D requirements by conducting research of their own, by acting in concert with other research institutes or by assigning research contracts to external researchers.
Departmental research covers a broad spectrum of tasks. Its remit includes such areas as scientific research on statutory tasks; scientific and technical services such as permits and approvals; maintaining databases, operating expert systems and monitoring networks, collaboration in developing and updating legislation and standards at national, European and international level; knowledge and technology transfer; research, studies and social reporting on current socio-political issues.
The departmental research institutes maintain a wealth of scientific expertise that is available at short notice to support the government’s actions and provide advisory services to aid the political decision-making process. To this end, they address current, ongoing problems affecting society, science and industry, and develop various options for government measures. They conduct research into relevant issues within their individual areas of responsibility and undertake initial research with a long-term perspective in preparation for future social challenges.
For this reason, as stipulated in the coalition agreement, the Federal Government is working to strengthen its departmental research. This ensures that all departmental research institutes are able to profit from the Freedom of Science Act.