Identifying the Best - Theory, Methods, Practice

9th Forum on the Internationalization of Sciences and Humanities

18 – 19 October 2015, Berlin


Our globally linked knowledge societies of the 21st century are dependent on the expertise and inventiveness of top-level researchers. Indeed, there are increasing numbers of excellent candidates who are mobile and who compete for grants and positions in the academic systems worldwide. At the same time, the selection committees and funding organizations tasked with identifying the very best among them are competing for the limited time and energy of the people involved in the existing review and selection system. Hence, there is a growing realization that traditional methods of assessing quality, such as peer review, may no longer suffice to provide today’s research systems with the necessary quality assurance. On the other hand, supposedly more efficient methods are increasingly seen as unsatisfactory shortcuts to proper evaluation. In order to identify the best candidates, new or modified ways of assessing the past academic performance and of estimating the future academic potential of candidates have to be found. Achieving an understanding of what defines “the best” constitutes a prerequisite, and a differentiated approach is required here: The humanities, the social and the natural sciences may each have a different view of what constitutes excellence. A definition of excellence will also need to take into consideration further factors such as a researcher’s career stage, the research environment, or his or her geographical, cultural, and personal background. Finally, funding organizations can only meet their responsibility to uphold academic excellence in the worldwide scientific system if they ensure the highest quality in their selection procedures. Funders therefore should strive to take into account the latest insights on the implications of specific selection methods and to implement them in their selection procedures.

Participants at the 9th Forum on the Internationalization of Sciences and Humanities
9th Forum on the Internationalization of Sciences and
Humanities, Berlin

Photo: Humboldt Foundation/David Ausserhofer

Following up on the previous year’s Forum, the 9th Forum on the Internationalization of Sciences and Humanities explored all three aspects – how to define “the best”, what methods and instruments are suitable for identifying them, and how funding organizations can meet the challenges surrounding different selection methods in practice.

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Forum on the Internationalization of Sciences and Humanities

International Advisory Board


Frank Albrecht
Senior Coordinator Strategic Planning
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Jean-Paul-Str. 12
53173 Bonn

Phone: +49 (228) 833 122
Email: frank.albrecht(at)

Dr. Martin Schaffartzik
Program Director Strategic Planning

Dr. Barbara Sheldon
Head of Division Strategic Planning