More Freedom for Science
The "Freedom of Science Act" minimises bureaucracy and strengthens international competitiveness in research. As of 2013, extramural research organisations in Germany will be given more autonomy and independent responsibility as regards their budgeting. After the Bundestag decision from 18 October 2012 and the positive statement from the Bundesrat, the "Gesetz zur Flexibilisierung von haushaltsrechtlichen Rahmenbedingungen außeruniversitärer Wissenschaftseinrichtungen" – in short, Freedom of Science Act – will come into effect on 31 December 2012. It gives the scientific organisations greater leeway with regards to budget and human resource decisions as well as participation and building projects. With this act, the federal government further extends flexibility in addition to the 2008 freedom of science initiative. The act affects the Helmholtz Association as well as the Leibniz Association, the Max Planck Society, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft - German Research Institution and other scientific institutions.
Global Budgets: Coverage, Transferability, Abolition of Staff Appointment Schemes
In future, the institutions can budget in a more flexible and demand-oriented manner. They now may allocate funds, which, due to unforeseeable changes, will become necessary for investment not until a later stage, also for operating equipment and vice versa. Very complex, innovative research projects in particular profit from this change, because often they are difficult to plan and require short-term decisions due to their technologically pioneering character. Now, unused budget funds may be fully transferred to the following year; so far, only 20 per cent could be carried forward. Up to now, the number of positions for executive staff was strictly limited. Discontinuation of the so-called W3 staff appointment schemes paves the way for organisational modernisation, that is, the institution of smaller, more powerful institutes, which can act faster, more efficiently and more flexibly.
Human Resources: Limitation of the "Besserstellungsverbot"
In future, the Freedom of Science Act allows the involved scientific organisations to use also third-party funds from non-public sources for salaries and salary components of scientific and science-relevant staff. This supports the institutions in winning over and keeping top-level staff from both at home and abroad with competitive work offers. This is of particular value for the Helmholtz Association. Due to its mission to create and operate complex research infrastructures, it is dependent on highly qualified executive personnel in the technical fields.
Participation: Faster Proceedings
Authorisation processes for involvement in enterprises with national and international partners will be streamlined and accelerated by the abolition of the right to reserve approval. Thereby, co-operation projects can be implemented faster and more flexibly – an important requirement in maintaining and further expanding international competitiveness.
Building Projects: Simplified Proceedings
Institutions with sufficient competence as regards building and controlling are given the opportunity to carry out building projects of a volume of up to five million Euro without having to involve governmental building authorities. Larger building projects benefit from simplified proceedings and the involvement of governmental building authorities is limited to the necessary minimum.
The Freedom of Science Act is an important step forward for German research, since legal framework conditions increasingly are a success factor in the context of international competition. The Helmholtz Association acknowledges its duty to use the newly granted freedom in a responsible and transparent manner. It assumes that these flexibilities now will be adopted also by the German federal states.