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Press release

Despite the pandemic: Strong demand for research fellowships from the Humboldt Foundation

The United States remain Germany’s strongest international competitor.

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Young woman in lab, symbolic image Humboldt Research Fellowship
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The number of applications from international scientists and scholars seeking a research fellowship from the Humboldt Foundation rose slightly this year despite the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2021, a total of 2,266 applications were received (as of November). The number of applications for the entire year was 2,206 in 2020 and 2,241 in 2019.

The scientific evaluation of Humboldt Research Fellowships that was released today confirms that the Foundation’s fellowships have strong international appeal and a positive impact on the individual’s research career, international networking and performance. The evaluation was based on a survey of the approximately 6,000 guest researchers from abroad who were sponsored by the Humboldt Foundation in the last ten years. The evaluation also showed which countries constitute the strongest competition for Germany. More than one out of every two individuals surveyed had previously considered choosing a country other than Germany for their research; their top preferences were the USA and the United Kingdom, followed by France, Canada and Switzerland. 

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Summary of the evaluation (PDF, 219 KB)
Final report of the evaluation (PDF, 2 MB)

“The fact that our fellowships continue to be in strong demand internationally, despite the pandemic, is a compliment not only for the Humboldt Foundation, but particularly for the science system in Germany which attracts these guests from abroad”, said Enno Aufderheide, Secretary General of the Foundation. “However, we can’t rest on our laurels. Germany has to remain competitive, particularly with regard to the USA and the United Kingdom. This means, for example, improving digitalisation, streamlining and speeding up administrative processes, expanding infrastructure, facilitating commercial spin-offs, and providing impetus for making it easier to transfer knowledge to commercial applications”, Aufderheide stressed with a view to the feedback from the Foundation’s international network. In light of this, the Foundation welcomes the new German government’s science policy plans that target relevant improvements. “We expect this to have a positive effect on Germany’s international attractiveness as a location for conducting research”, Aufderheide concluded. 

Geography of Knowledge

Where do international scientists who work in Germany come from? And where do they go when they leave Germany? The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Geography of Knowledge offers insights into the fluctuations and shifts in the science landscape, based on the Humboldt Network with its approximately 30,000 members. 

This latest evaluation shows that most of the researchers sponsored by the Humboldt Foundation during the last five years came from the USA (563), China (490), India (241) and the United Kingdom (235). Following their research stay in Germany, many fellows continue their research careers in another country. The largest number of Humboldt alumni currently conduct research in the USA (5,392), China (1,968) and Japan (1,756). Looking at Europe, most alumni are doing research in the United Kingdom, Poland and France; in Africa, the largest concentrations can be found in Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa. 

What do researchers hope for from the new German government? Voices from the Humboldt network 

(Press release 39/2021)

Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time conducting research in Germany. The Foundation maintains an interdisciplinary network of well over 30,000 Humboldtians in more than 140 countries around the world – including 57 Nobel Prize winners.

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