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German Science Leaders to Politicians Break Funding Impasse Now

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Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe One problem is that the German constitution forbids the federal government from providing long-term funding to universities; that responsibility lies with the 16 states. In their appeal today, the three science managers called for a constitutional change to make long-term federal funding possible. Wilhelm Krull, secretary-general of the Volkswagen Foundation, a large private research funder in Germany, says that big investments are needed to update the infrastructure in German universities. “Many buildings are literally crumbling,” he says, and more money will be needed for educating the rising number of students and for digitalization. “If the states have to pay for all that, some of it just won’t happen,” Krull says.Wanka agrees. In a recent interview, she told ScienceInsider that “changing the constitution is one of my major goals for this legislative period,” but acknowledged it would be difficult to achieve because state politicians resent federal encroachment on their turf.There is also disagreement about how the €6 billion for education and research that the coalition has promised to the states will be used. While the states want the money without any strings attached, federal politicians prefer to earmark some of it for universities. Indeed, a “substantial part” of the money should go to universities, which have fallen behind in basic research, the authors of today’s appeal say. They also want the programs started under Schavan, including the Excellence Initiative, to be continued in some form.The appeal is important because it will increase the pressure on politicians to end the deadlock, Krull says. “All this political maneuvering is leading to a lot of uncertainty in the research community,” he says. Krull is worried that some of the most talented scientists may strike out for other countries where the funding situation is clearer. “There is not as much time as some politicians seem to think.”*Clarification, 20 May, 8:58 a.m.: Angela Merkel is best referred to as a physicist, not a chemist, as previously reported. She has a Ph.D. in physical chemistry, but studied physics. Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country BERLIN—A political impasse may cause “irreparable harm to the German research system,” if it isn’t solved soon, the heads of three German science organizations warned today. Politicians need to start making some important decisions in the weeks ahead, according to the rare joint statement by Peter Strohschneider of the German Research Foundation, Horst Hippler of the German Rectors’ Conference, and Wolfgang Marquardt of the German Council of Science and Humanities. “Otherwise the research system and the education of more than 2.5 million students in Germany will suffer further and greater harm … that cannot be undone,” the trio wrote in their letter (in German), released at a press conference here.German science has enjoyed a remarkable windfall the past decade. Since Angela Merkel, a physicist, took office as chancellor in 2005, investment in science has increased continuously. In 2012, public and private spending combined, at €79.5 billion, reached 3% of the gross domestic product for the first time. The Joint Initiative for Research and Innovation has provided substantial budget hikes for nonuniversity organizations like the Max Planck Society and the Helmholtz Association, and the €4.6 billion Excellence Initiative has introduced a new element of competition into German universities by making them vie for the title “elite university.”But most of these programs are set to run out in the coming years, and German scientists are anxious about the future. Federal research minister Annette Schavan stepped down in February last year after losing her Ph.D. in a plagiarism scandal; her successor, mathematician Johanna Wanka, has given little indication so far of what her plans are. read more

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