Evaluation of the Frontiers of Research Symposia (2019)

Alle Evaluationen von Förderprogrammen der Humboldt-Stiftung 

The Frontiers of Research Symposia (FoRS) enable participants to conduct bi-national, high-level specialist and intercultural exchange through which the goals of the programme are achieved. This is the conclusion reached by the Berlin-based evalux agency which evaluated the FoRS Programme on behalf of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in 2018. The aim of the evaluation was to check whether the programme goals were being met and issue recommendations for continuing to develop the programme.

The evaluators confirm that the various programme activities at the symposia complement one another and contribute to a very well-functioning format overall. Thus, the symposia enable researchers to partake in interdisciplinary, intercultural discussions, broaden their research horizons and grapple with topics not central to their own research fields. According to the agency, these opportunities are particularly highly prized by the researchers who take part.

One of the programme’s intended mechanisms of action is to trigger mid- and long-term academic contacts and collaborations amongst the participants following the symposia. The evaluation shows that contacts amongst the researchers resulting from participating in the event are less bi-national and interdisciplinary than those during the symposia. One reason for this is the composition of the target group (next-generation researchers at the beginning of their careers who are under pressure to work and publish) in combination with the interdisciplinary approach adopted by the symposia. Moreover, the data collected during the evaluation reveals that researchers would be interested in more follow-up contacts with the other participants.

In the opinion of the evaluation agency, the Foundation should use the programme more than it has so far to reinforce the Humboldt Network. The inherent potential is not yet being sufficiently exploited. With reference to its strategic goals, the Humboldt Foundation is therefore recommended to continue developing the programme concept of the FoR symposia (e.g. by the choice of partner countries).

Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used for the evaluation. By means of an online survey, all those who took part in the symposia series from 2008 to 2017 (more than 3,000 individuals; response rate: approx. 30%) were interviewed on their experiences with Frontiers symposia. This was complemented by a raft of guided interviews with stakeholders and symposia participants with different functions (participants, speakers, chairs and co-chairs). In addition, various programme documents and funding statistics were also evaluated.