Evaluation of the Humboldt Network (2015)

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The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation recently conducted an extensive survey to investigate its network more closely. Approximately 7,000 Humboldtians answered the Foundation’s questions online or in personal interviews.
The Foundation is now working on various measures and new tools to make the Network even more attractive. The key findings from the Humboldt Network Study at a glance:

Strong bond with Germany

In general, contacts with Germany are of great importance to the respondents and are considered to be very significant for their professional careers. The bond with Germany is particularly strong amongst alumni from countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Alumni act as "ambassadors for Germany"

Approximately three out of every four alumni report that their image of Germany improved as a result of their first stay in the country. Many Humboldtians subsequently become ambassadors for German culture and science in their own countries. They pass on their knowledge about Germany and its science system not only to researchers and students but also to institutions outside the immediate academic field and, in the process, convey an up-to-date image of Germany in their own countries. Associations, embassies, representatives of business and industry, and bodies that promote science and research perceive them as advisors and experts.

The Network is used

The Humboldt Network is one of several networks in which scientists and scholars around the world are active. Others include specialised networks and networks organised by academies of science. Amongst the activities investigated by the study the respondents attach the greatest importance to maintaining personal contacts and to scientific exchange within the Humboldt Network.

"We feeling" and emotional ties make the difference

Being a member of the Humboldt Network is considered a privilege. In addition, the Humboldtians surveyed emphasise the advantage of knowing that they will belong to this network for the rest of their lives. They describe it as a community of people with similar values and experiences whose members are linked to one another by a “we feeling”. The respondents cite their joint stay in Germany, their ties to the Foundation, and the knowledge that they have been singled out as outstanding researchers as essential factors binding them together. The study also reveals that the added value the members of the Humboldt Network subjectively associate with it is primarily emotional and less goal-oriented. There are, however, also groups within the network, mainly composed of alumni and hosts in Germany, who take a more businesslike view and emphasise the Network’s utilitarian value.

Collaborative activities often take place in the network without support from the Foundation

Much of the additional academic collaboration that takes place between members of the Humboldt Network is not financed by the Foundation. In many cases, however, sponsorship provided by the Humboldt Foundation does act as a catalyst that generates useful contacts and collaborations which are financed from other sources.

Recommendations by the Academic Council for Programme Evaluation

The Foundation’s Academic Council for Programme Evaluation has considered the study in detail and considers the findings to confirm that maintaining the Humboldt Network makes a significant contribution to internationalising the German science and research landscape as well as to German foreign cultural and educational policy. In order to ensure that the Network continues to be attractive, alumni from highly-developed industrialised countries should be specifically addressed with a view to increasing their presence in the Network. In this context, the Council also draws attention to the major importance of promoting junior researchers and recommends activating the Network Germany to a greater extent.