Dossier Diversity

Promoting diversity is one of the Humboldt Foundation’s key objectives and an integral part of the Foundation’s strategy. The long-term aim is to give clear impetus to the topic of diversity in science. At the same time, the Foundation is working on systematically extending various diversity aspects in its own portfolio.

Stapel von mehrfarbigen Holzklötzen in einem breit gefächerten Farbspektrum.
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Excellence through diversity

In its role as a science funding organisation, the Foundation connects outstanding researchers from more than 140 countries and every conceivable discipline and subject with specialist colleagues in Germany. We are only too aware that the prerequisites for excellence and the conditions under which research is conducted and scientific potential can develop vary greatly around the world.

"For us, excellence and diversity are indivisible."
Judith Wellen, Head of Department, Strategy and External Relations, Humboldt Foundation
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Agenda for lived diversity (PDF, 202 KB)

In 2021, the Foundation’s Agenda for lived diversity created a framework for actively promoting our aim of driving diversity in the science system. The Agenda seeks to ensure that diversity becomes an even clearer focus of all fields of action. From our selection, funding and communication activities through to administrative action, the Humboldt Foundation monitors its work systematically and continuously for equality of opportunity and accessibility. We also pool the expertise of researchers who study diversity topics in our worldwide network. At the Foundation, too, we aim to embed diversity even more firmly in our organisational culture both with regard to the culture of work, leadership and staff recruitment as well as to an accessible, inclusive infrastructure.

Sprechende Frau mit Mikrofon in der Hand vor einer Kamera

Diversity in selection and sponsorship

To increase diversity and equality of opportunity internationally, the Foundation also strives to break new paths in promoting talent. Humboldt Scouts, such as Islam scholar Johanna Pink who has managed to recruit specific linguistic and regional expertise for her research team, make our network more diverse:


In all the Humboldt Foundation’s sponsorship programmes, moreover, equality of opportunity in the selection process can be enhanced by disclosing personal circumstances. This means a candidate’s concrete living situation can flow into a fair assessment of their scientific performance. It may, for example, be possible to recognise absences due to various disabilities, illness or caring for next-of-kin and children. The Humboldt Foundation provides advice on individual situations.


The Humboldt Foundation is particularly keen to achieve an appropriate share of women researchers in the Humboldt Network. Gender monitoring regularly records the distribution of female and male researchers in the Foundation’s sponsorship programmes. We also monitor the hurdles facing women in academic careers and explore ways of removing them. How many women researchers are there worldwide who are internationally mobile and could potentially be recruited for a research stay in Germany? What encourages them to be internationally mobile? And what stops them from doing research elsewhere in the world? On behalf of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the CEWS Center of Excellence Women and Science at the GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences has explored potential and challenges.


Work and family in harmony: a conscious organisational culture

For the strategic design of its HR policy regarding families and phases of life, the Humboldt Foundation has been awarded the “audit berufundfamilie” certificate for the second time. The Foundation’s achievement reflects its successful, staff-friendly implementation of conditions for combining work and family life.

Diversity in language, communications and actions

Even though there is a lot of talk about diversity in science and research, it is by no means a reality everywhere. This is the message contained in the personal reports of Foundation sponsorship-recipients all over the world. In 2021, the Humboldt Foundation launched a campaign on the topic of diversity in science. The #ProgressDiversity edition of Humboldt Kosmos, the accompanying analyses as well as activities on Twitter sent signals and launched discussions.

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With its #ProgressDiversity campaign, the Humboldt Foundation is working to foster diversity in science and research. The latest edition of the Foundation’s magazine Humboldt Kosmos is dedicated to the topic.

Why science needs more diversity: #ProgressDiversity edition of Humboldt Kosmos
Diversity in language: Why we reach for the *** (stars)

The Humboldt Foundation is convinced that a diversity of perspectives is a prerequisite for excellence. For us, excellence begins with registering diversity in language.

Moreover, we also share ideas with our partners worldwide in various dialogue and collaborative formats addressing global challenges and opportunities for promoting diversity. Partners include the Alliance of Science Organisations and intermediary organisations for foreign cultural and educational policy in the context of (inter)national symposia. The panel discussion “Diversity drives excellence: rethinking academic potential in higher education” (2 March 2023) in cooperation with Fulbright Germany and the British Council is one example, as is the sharing of ideas at the Gender Summit.

Alliance Organization Inclusion Initiative

The Humboldt Foundation is actively involved in the implementation of the “Initiative Inclusion” by the Alliance of Science Organisations. Headed by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the Max Planck Society, the Alliance has launched a campaign to break down visible and invisible barriers and actively promote the participation and development opportunities of people with disabilities in science and research.

Diversity in the Humboldt Network

The more heterogeneous the researchers in a team, the more creative the results: this is a fact now generally acknowledged. Diversity in science has become an important catchphrase – and every country interprets it differently. A journey round the world discovering diversity.


Path-breaking research by women (a selection)

Thousands of excellent women in the Humboldt Network worldwide conduct research that helps to ensure a more sustainable future, drive progress in medicine and health, and develop innovative new technologies. Here are three pioneers in the Humboldt Network:

Porträt von Catherina Becker
Humboldt Professor

Catherina G. Becker

To regenerate human nerve tissue is the dream of medical scientists working on solutions for diseases such as Parkinson’s and spinal cord injuries. The neurobiologist and Humboldt Professsor Catherina Becker could help to make this dream come true. She explores mechanisms that contribute to generating new nerve cells and healing damaged tissue.

Georg Forster Research Award Winner

Francine Ntoumi

Francine Ntoumi is known as a pioneer of infection research in Africa. The internationally successful molecular biologist and Georg Forster Research Award Winner from the Republic of Congo studies infectious diseases like malaria, HIV and COVID-19. For the series, “Science Selfies – Research made in Africa”, she and her team produced videos documenting how they fought the pandemic and trained scientists.

Humboldt Professor

Margaret C. Crofoot

The anthropologist and Humboldt Professor Margaret Crofoot conducts research into movement ecology, a relatively young field that analyses the behaviour of animals in groups. How do animals defend their territory and how do they make decisions? These are the questions Margaret Crofoot investigates.


Background Easter Jelly Beans; Text: Progress Diversity
Humboldt Kosmos


Why science needs more diversity – in the #ProgressDiversity edition of Humboldt Kosmos, the Foundation examines the state of diversity in science and research worldwide.

Porträtfoto von Catherine Heymans
Humboldt Kosmos – Focus

Discrimination damages progress

Science benefits from diversity. But those who don’t comply with the norm have to risk being disadvantaged. One issue that has occupied Catherine Heymans personally for a while now is the way top-level research handles disabilities. Since a corona infection, the astrophysicist has been suffering from long COVID.


Women in international research: focus on Africa

Women all over the globe work on topics that can change the world – for the good of humanity worldwide and, above all, in regions that are faced with particular economic, ecological and social challenges.

Die Illustration zeigt Professor Dr. Jochen Guck
Humboldt Kosmos – Brief Enquiries

What can stop you, Mr Guck?

My life in a wheelchair has taught me to recognise what is really important and what is just a distraction. What others think and consider normal? That is not a question I ask myself. My normal is different anyway.

Maryam Dezhamkhooy und Leila Papoli-Yazdi 2012, Neshat Garden, Neyshabour, Iran

Another world is possible

The Humboldtians Leila Papoli-Yazdi and Maryam Dezhamkhooy dig deep into the history of their country. In an interview, the two archaeologists describe how society in Iran has changed from a pre-modern state with tolerant views on gender norms and sexuality, and why gender archaeology can enrich the present day.