Research Field Health
The scientific achievements of the Helmholtz Centers within the research field Health and their contributions to the research programs were reviewed by international experts in six panels between November 2017 and April 2018.
The research activities of the centers were evaluated in depth by 120 internationally renowned experts from industry and scientific institutions for three to four days during lectures, discussion rounds, poster presentations and laboratory visits. Helmholtz scientists, postdocs, students, members of the scientific advisory boards, board members and representatives of the federal and state funding bodies were present to get a comprehensive and detailed overall picture of the respective center and its research priorities.
Under competent guidance of senior chairpersons, extensive and substantial reports were prepared for each center and research program. These include constructive recommendations for future orientation. Without exception, all centers were issued with an outstanding scientific quality in basic research and translation. They are optimally focused on the most important diseases due to the critical mass and high interdisciplinarity at any one location. This positions the Helmholtz Health Centers as internationally leading in biomedicine. The unique format in the scientific landscape with regard to thematic diversity and resources within one Helmholtz Research Field was highlighted by the reviewers. The long-term, interdisciplinary and mission-driven research and the associated impressive infrastructure coupled with translation for the relevant widespread diseases at the individual centers were rated as exemplary and highly competitive worldwide. This approach should be continuously strengthened.
All centers have undergone an astonishing development since the last assessment and the increased focus on one widespread disease at every center has been confirmed as extremely successful. The role of the Helmholtz Health Centers as essential drivers and catalysts for local, regional and international partnerships and thus an important partner for German university medicine was rated by the experts as a great strength: "we are in awe and to some extent speechless to be sitting in front of such a power panel".
The centers are a magnet for talented young top researchers from Germany and abroad, as one of the panel chair states: "I would send my kids to this Helmholtz Center without hesitation and wish I was a few years younger to have the experience myself". The experts recommend expanding existing strengths, in particular translation by creating and increasing infrastructures (including NCT, Clinical Trial Units, Digital Diabetes Prevention Center) and focusing on common disease mechanisms (including immunology, metabolism). In addition, a joint big data strategy is to be developed within the research field and beyond so that the Helmholtz Association seizes the opportunity to act as a pioneer of a “Digital Health Strategy” for Europe.
Based on the expert recommendations, the future strategy of the research area and the respective centers is prioritized and implemented through investments and recruitments. In parallel, the recommendations will be incorporated into the preparation of the new research programs.