Evaluation of the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award (2016)

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Sofja Kovalevskaja Award, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, is granted to young, exceptionally promising researchers from abroad in recognition of outstanding academic achievements. The award is designed to enable them to embark on academic careers in Germany by establishing their own junior research groups at research institutions in Germany. The programme’s overarching goal is to continue promoting the internationalisation of German research.

During 2015 and 2016, the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award Programme was evaluated. For this purpose, a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods was used (including on-site visits, bibliometric studies, an online survey of all award winners).

With regard to achieving the programme goals, the evaluation elicited very positive outcomes. The main evaluation results included:

The goals of promoting excellence in individuals and building international research groups at German research institutions are being implemented successfully. The Sofja Kovalevskaja Award allows award winners to conduct research and build a research group under very good conditions. During the sponsorship period, the award winners do top-grade, innovative research of their own choosing, largely free of administrative constraints, and enjoy a high level of autonomy.

The goal of enabling award winners to embark on an academic career in Germany is being achieved.Sofja Kovalevskaja award winners usually pursue academic careers. Most have become professors; nearly all of them have tenure.

The Sofja Kovalevskaja Programme is an attractive tool for driving the internationalisation of research in Germany. Sofja Kovalevskaja award winners have above average success in academia and are connected internationally. The visibility of their publications in all disciplines stands out in comparison with average publications by researchers in Germany in the respective specialist areas. Moreover, award winners produce significantly more international publications than their peers in Germany.

The programme has the potential to continue driving the internationalisation of German research by integrating the award winners in Germany on a long-term basis. Options are currently being examined for including incentives in the Humboldt Foundation’s sponsorship portfolio that will encourage award winners to remain in the German research system on a permanent basis.