Dossier Philipp Schwartz Initiative

Their home countries are blighted by war, their freedom of research is curtailed or they are persecuted: in many parts of the world, scientists and scholars are in danger. The Philipp Schwartz Initiative helps researchers who have fled their countries to find their feet at German universities and research institutions.
 

Nedal Said from Syria (second from left) and the Turkish translation scholar Meral Camci (second from right)
Two of the first fellows to conduct research with German colleagues in summer 2016: Nedal Said from Syria (second from left) at UFZ Leipzig; the Turkish translation scholar Meral Camci (second from right) at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (Photos: Humboldt Foundation/Nikolaus Brade/Alexander Paul Englert).

Safe at last

The Syrian microbiologist Nedal Said was one of the first fellows to benefit from the Philipp Schwartz Initiative. He fled to Germany via Turkey and embarked on his fellowship at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig in summer 2016. “I work in science. Colleagues support me, and my family is with me at last – I am a whole person again,” he said. The translation scholar Meral Camci from Istanbul was also one of the first Philipp Schwartz Fellows. She had been subjected to massive pressure in Turkey, given her notice as a professor and even held in custody for several weeks. In Germany she conducted research at the University of Mainz.

Hope for 159 researchers

In the course of the Initiative, 159 researchers at risk have been awarded Philipp Schwartz Fellowships. So far, 139 researchers (as of May 2019) have embarked on their fellowships.The initiative grants funding to German universities and research institutions which they can use to finance these foreign academics for two years. The Humboldt Foundation launched the programme together with the Federal Foreign Office. Universities that apply for sponsorship under the Philipp Schwartz Initiative must submit, amongst other things, a strategy explaining how they will treat endangered researchers and integrate them academically.

A bonus for German universities

“We want to set an example for the international mindset of academia in Germany,” emphasises Hans-Christian Pape, the President of the Humboldt Foundation. “We help people who can benefit our science system and who will be urgently needed in their own countries when the time comes, in the hopefully not too distant future, for reconstruction.”

Following the selection of 24 researchers in summer 2016, it was possible to increase the number of new recipients to 44 in the second round and 56 in the third round. In the fourth round in summer 2018, 31 universities were selected to receive funding to enable them to host a further 35 Philipp Schwartz Fellows. In comparison with the first call, the fellows’ home countries have changed: whilst the majority of fellows in the first selection round came from Syria, since then, most of the fellows have hailed from Turkey.

Philipp Schwartz
The Philipp Schwartz Initiative is named after the Jewish pathologist who had to flee from Nazi Germany in 1933 and founded the “Emergency Society of German Scholars Abroad” (Photo: Archive G. Kreft).

Networks for researchers at risk

As well as sponsoring individuals, the initiative also seeks to provide a platform for information sharing on the situation of endangered researchers. In this context, the Humboldt Foundation cooperates with international partner organisations such as the Scholars at Risk Network, the Scholar Rescue Fund and the Council for At-Risk Academics. Until March 2022, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is also hosting the secretariat of the German Section of the Scholars at Risk Network, founded in 2016.

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