2019 Humboldt Alumni Award for Innovative Networking Initiatives

For what is now the eleventh time, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is honouring innovative networking ideas developed by Humboldtians abroad. The successful proposals all seek to promote the alumni’s academic and cultural links between Germany and their own countries and to reinforce cooperation in the respective regions. The award includes funding of up to € 25,000. One Humboldt Alumni Award is designed to promote networking amongst female researchers by rewarding initiatives that promote and sustainably strengthen the academic career paths of women scientists and scholars and their collaborative partners, taking particular account of professional and family obligations. To mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of the man after whom the Foundation is named, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is granting two additional awards. In the spirit of the great polymath, it is recognising proposals that address Alexander von Humboldt’s relevance today and that encourage sustainable academic and cultural links between Germany and Humboldt alumni’s own countries as well as specifically promoting networking in the respective countries and regions.

This year’s successful initiatives were proposed by Humboldtians from Cuba, Japan, the Russian Federation, South Africa and the United States.


Hiroki Harada
Foto: privat

Japanese and German legal scholars traditionally maintain close relations. At an early stage in their academic training they are encouraged to connect. With his networking initiative A backbone for Japanese-German communication in public law Hiroki Harada seeks to sustainably reinforce legal understanding of Germany in public law in Japan. Experienced researchers will provide German-Japanese meeting and learning formats in order to convey knowledge and communicative competence about the basic legal structures to junior academics in the network. Those involved will connect during visits, at doctoral seminars as well as at workshops in Japan and Germany. They will thus invigorate the socially important bilateral exchange on the appropriate relationship between the state and the citizen.

Humboldt Research Fellow Hiroki Harada is Professor in the Law Faculty at Kyoto University, Japan.


Roger Ianjamasimanana
Foto: privat

One of the largest radio telescopes worldwide, the Square Kilometer Array, is currently being built in the southern hemisphere by an international research alliance. Madagascar is one of the African partners and has a keen interest in being involved scientifically. University education in astronomy is, however, not strongly developed in the country. Roger Ianjamasimanana`s Madagascar-South Africa-Germany Network Initiatives: Mentoring and Teaching of Future & Emerging Young Researchers are designed to improve academic training in Madagascar. Together with German, South African and Madagascan researchers, Ianjamasimanana advises and encourages school students and young researchers to pursue a scientific/technical career. Distinguished researchers will mentor younger scientists and help them to plan their careers.

Georg Forster Research Fellow Roger Ianjamasimanana is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Physics and Electronics at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa.


Rayner Núñez
Foto: privat

The Alexander von Humboldt National Park in eastern Cuba is the largest and best-preserved residual mountain ecosystem in the Caribbean. As early as 1804, on his travels through the country, Alexander von Humboldt recognised that the variety of species in this biodiversity hotspot was under threat. Rayner Núñez’s networking initiative seeks to foster and preserve what is now a UNESCO world heritage site. His project Cuba revisited – Alexander von Humboldt National Park: A network for Caribbean biodiversity research and conservation connects Cuban and international researchers, junior academics, NGO staff, volunteers and students in preserving the diversity of the animal and plant species native to the National Park. The results of this collaboration will be made available to other researchers and conservationists on the Alumniportal Deutschland.

Georg Forster Research Fellow Rayner Núñez currently works for the Planta! - Plantlife Conservation Society in Havana, Cuba.


Christa Rautenbach
Foto: privat

How can women help to shape societies that are still governed by traditional authority and institutions, and how can they obtain equal participation in leadership positions which are generally reserved for the senior male members of royal families? These are some of the questions addressed by Christa Rautenbach in her Traditional Governance and Women Network that is composed of female researchers in Germany, South Africa, Zambia and the Netherlands. The members will connect at roundtables in their various countries and elucidate the area of tension between traditional forms of government and gender issues. The aim of the networking initiative is to build sustainable, interdisciplinary research collaborations over continents. Furthermore, the experienced members of the network will communicate information on opportunities for international cooperation to young female researchers in law, social science, anthropology and politics.

Georg Forster Research Fellow Christa Rautenbach is Professor in the Faculty of Law at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa.


Alexandra Yurkovskaya
Foto: privat

How can you spark the enthusiasm of junior researchers for research into innovations in undiscovered fields of application and develop technologies in a way that engages new users? Alexandra Yurkovskaya is embracing this challenge. She has initiated a network, Emerging spin technologies, that connects experienced researchers with younger generations of academics in order to promote scientific breakthroughs in the chemical, physical and technical application of spin technology. As part of the networking initiative, several satellite events are planned on the periphery of conferences, workshops and scientific courses in Germany, Russia and Japan. The relevant findings will be published on a website.

Humboldt Research Fellow Alexandra Yurkovskaya is Head of the research laboratory at the International Tomography Center, which belongs to the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Novosibirsk, Russian Federation.


Abdullahi Yusuf
Foto: privat

Never before were so many animal and plant species threatened with extinction as they are today. Abdullahi Yusuf wants to draw attention to the state of and changes in insect populations. With his initiative, Behavioral and Ecological Principles of Biotic Interactions in Insects, he is creating a network that will aggregate knowledge on biodiversity and the state of ecosystems in times of climate change. Established researchers from Germany, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria will work together with students in the context of events and virtual workshops. Moreover, it is planned to connect the network with other relevant research communities such as the African Association of Insect Scientists and the Entomological Society of Southern Africa.

Georg Forster Research Fellow Abdullahi Yusuf is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.


Kathrin Zippel
Foto: Dirk Ahlgrim

Universities and research institutions draw their innovative strength from the engagement of everyone involved. With her networking initiative, Kathrin Zippel seeks to achieve gender equality in university leadership positions. Entitled Diffusion of promising practices: Global Links to promote Gender Equality in University Leadership, Kathrin Zippel is connecting a network of Humboldt alumni and German researchers with the research consortium Women in Higher Education Management Network. In the orbit of international gender conferences in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, Austria and Australia, meetings will be held at which members of the network will strategically empower the scientific discourse.

Humboldt Research Fellow Kathrin Zippel is Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Northeastern University in Boston, USA.