Strategies to Win the Best: German Approaches in International Perspective

2nd Forum on the Internationalization of Sciences and Humanities

December 5-7, 2008, Berlin


Much has been done to enhance the quality, competitiveness, and worldwide recognition of Germany's research and higher-education system in the past years. But Germany is not alone in its efforts. Research Chairs in Canada and South Africa, Discovery funds in Australia, A*Star awards in Singapore – countries worldwide are competing to attract and retain the world's most accomplished and promising minds. What are the lessons to be learned from such national programs and initiatives? How can nation states raise the attractiveness of their research systems and draw international expertise into the country?

Participants at the Second Forum on the Internationalization of Sciences and Humanities
Participants at the Second Forum on the Internationalization
of Sciences and Humanities
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/bildschön

At the invitation of the Humboldt Foundation’s International Advisory Board, more than 40 experts from academia and science management from six countries met in December 2008 in Berlin for the Second Forum on the Internationalization of Science and Scholarship. Featuring reports from Denmark, South Africa, Poland and the European Union, as well as statements from both established scientists and junior researchers, the forum took a comparative approach to current reform initiatives in Germany, exploring a wide range of factors involved in winning the best and asking what is needed to make Germany internationally more attractive to excellent researchers.


Active recruitment of top international academics and promising junior researchers is one of the tools used by countries like Denmark, Poland and South Africa to hold their own countries in the global contest for the best ideas and compete with the United States, which is still the leading science nation in many fields. But competition is not everything, participants agreed. As well as the race for the highest salaries, the best institutes and the most expensive world-scale plants, there should also be creative new models enabling several countries to profit from eminent academics and their ideas. One option would be joint appointments, meaning that research and teaching at universities and research institutions in different countries would benefit from the presence of a top researcher for a certain period of time. Researchers might spend several months each year working at a partner university or organization abroad without losing their positions at their home universities. A model of this kind would facilitate the exchange of knowledge and ideas while contributing to the promotion of young junior researchers in various countries. This was an idea that was not only of interest to economically weaker countries, but would reflect the nature of global academic markets and international mobility, according to the participants.
Thus, creative solutions and new ideas are called for to ensure that academic exchange does not suffer as a result of the world-wide competition for the brightest minds. In fact, there are alternatives to what has been called 'brain drain'. The future is called 'brain sharing' – this was the conclusion reached by the experts participating in the Second Forum of the Humboldt Foundation's International Advisory Board. The Forum's proceedings, discussion papers presented by the participants and the recommendations of the International Advisory Board are documented in a publication available for download from this website.

Publication for Download

Forum on the Internationalization of Sciences and Humanities

International Advisory Board


Frank Albrecht
Senior Coordinator
Strategic Planning Division
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Jean-Paul-Str. 12
53173 Bonn

Phone: +49 (228) 833 122

Dr. Martin Schaffartzik
Program Director
Strategic Planning Division

Dr. Barbara Sheldon
Head of
Strategic Planning Division