Researchers as ambassadors

Conference hosted by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation prepares international visiting researchers at German universities and research institutions for their role as “research diplomats”.

Scientists and academics play many roles. In their various fields they are enquirers and “answer providers”, researchers and instructors, thinkers and doers ‒ whether consciously or unconsciously, many of them are also diplomats. This was the core message presented by Libby Lyons, Programme Director of the National Science Foundation, an American research funding organisation, in her keynote address on the subject of Scientists as Diplomats at the 3rd Research Alumni Conference Germany. The conference was hosted by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for international visiting researchers at German universities and research institutions and was held in Berlin from 23 to 25 September. Representatives from the administrations of the German host institutions ‒ who are responsible for looking after the guest researchers ‒ also attended the conference. The 130 attendees came from the 26 institutions that were selected in idea and strategy competitions held by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation during the last five years on the subject of Research Alumni Work.

The term “research alumni” is used to designate international researchers who have conducted research in Germany and subsequently continued their scientific or academic career in another country. These “alumni” are ideal multipliers who serve as a source of information for young researchers and academics in their respective specialist networks about the opportunities and possibilities for conducting research in Germany. Even when they remain in Germany on a long-term basis they can ‒ in their role as “research ambassadors” ‒ be links between their German host institutions and their respective international scientific communities.

International guest researchers need tools in order to successfully fulfil their future role as “research diplomats” ‒ and it is necessary that they receive these tools during their research stay in Germany. For this reason the 3rd Research Alumni Conference Germany offered not only the lecture by Libby Lyons but also a wealth of information about the German science system and funding opportunities for research projects in Germany. The conference additionally featured a satellite event on the subject of European Perspectives on Research Alumni Work for Research Alumni Advisors. During this event representatives of various European funding organisations and the European Commission reported on their alumni work.

The event is part of the International Research Marketing project being conducted on a joint basis by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the German Academic Exchange Service, the German Research Foundation and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. The aim of this project is to promote Germany at home and abroad as a location for research and to raise its profile in the global science market.

All the activities within the project are part of the Promote Innovation and Research in Germany initiative under its brand Research in Germany. The initiative is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

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