Newsletter 1/2012

Fellows of the Humboldt Foundation and the Royal Society get together

Where do researchers have more scope? At the meeting in London opinions on German and British science culture differed.

At a meeting in London on 16 January, Humboldt Fellows and Newton Fellows of the Royal Society got together with representatives of both organisations to discuss how medium-sized research locations like the United Kingdom and Germany can best meet the challenges posed by the emergence of large, new science markets, especially in Asia. Provocative claims sparked a debate on the differences between the science cultures in Germany and the UK: typical for Germany are a strong feeling of belonging to a certain research group, distinct hierarchies, narrow specialisations and good basic funding. Germany lacks clearly defined career paths in science. Research tends to avoid playing to the gallery. While researchers in the UK are likely to be much more individualistic and take considerably more notice of the competition, far more joint research is actually conducted. Against the backdrop of modest basic funding, third-party funding plays a much greater role than in Germany. The United Kingdom has clearly defined career paths in science while research tends to aim for high public impact.

Would researchers be better off in the other country? One of the questions on which opinions diverged significantly was whether the burden of teaching and administration was greater in the one country than the other – with concomitantly reduced scope for research. Everyone was agreed that robust academic networks play a particularly important part in recruiting good junior researchers. And on the issue of research funding, a call was made to think less in national terms and to develop a more European approach.

Gebäude der Royal Society in London
Royal Society building in London
Foto: Royal Society

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