Partnerships for the Future
In the coming years, German research policy is set to face important decisions: In 2017, the Excellence Initiative will come to an end. Moreover, the question remains unresolved as to how the Joint Initiative for Research and Innovation and the Higher Education Pact are to be continued. These funding instruments constitute fundamental elements in the budgets of research organisations and many universities and therefore exert considerable influence on our research landscape.
Because of the impending changes, the German federal government has asked the German Science Council, in cooperation with the universities, the research organisations and the funding organisations, to devise new ideas for the further development of the German science system. Our contribution to this debate is the position paper "Helmholtz 2020 –Shaping the Future Through Partnership", expressing our thoughts as regards the involvement of the Helmholtz Association in the required further development. This paper constitutes an offer to universities, other research organisations as well as to funding bodies from politics and industry to jointly conceptualise perspectives and strategies for the future of Germany as a site for science.
In our opinion, the consolidation of competences and resources is the most important process. Specifically, this means that we work on our research topics in close cooperation with other scientific institutions and the industry. The universities, in particular, are our privileged partners, since, in addition to conducting research, they focus on training the future generation of scientists. The merger of the Research Centre Karlsruhe with the University of Karlsruhe to form the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology is a good example. The joint early career support within graduate schools as well as the provision and further extension of state-of-the-art large-scale facilities combine to create a highly desirable site for research, providing internationally outstanding scientists with an optimal environment.
If it is impossible to concentrate sufficient competences in one site, then a decentralised institutional network such as the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases or networks targeting specific projects and incorporating additional Helmholtz project funding activities constitute partnership concepts that pave the way for the future. Such a qualitative development of the science system is necessary in order to maintain Germany's competitiveness on an international level. The conditions for doing so are very favourable and the potential is likewise given. As far as we can see, this potential can only be fully utilised by all stakeholders working together in close cooperation.