Scientists anticipate boost in life science funding, new programs
By Ned Stafford | January 30, 2006
Earlier this month, officials released the short list of German universities vying for a place in the new German "ivy league.? The winning schools will receive a portion of 1.9 billion euros, set aside to create an elite group of internationally recognized universities and spur scientific research.
"I think Germany is in need of a shake-up and think this is gong to do it. I hope so," said Kai Simons, president of the European Life Scientist Organization (ELSO), and research group leader and director at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany.
Simons noted that the extra funding will impact life sciences on several levels ? importantly, creating new programs, which means more money for younger scientists. "It is very clear that this will give a big boost to young investigators," he said, adding that the program also will help create a life sciences synergy between universities, private research institutions, and commercial ventures.
The program was first proposed in early 2004 as an "elite university" competition, which triggered a firestorm of criticism from those who support the current egalitarian system of almost entirely public universities operated by state governments. To win political backing, the program was renamed the Excellence Initiative and expanded to include money for graduate schools and so-called "excellence clusters," where universities would team up with private research institutions and commercial ventures. The five year program was finally approved last summer; draft applications from universities, due last fall, were reviewed by an international joint committee.
To stay in the running, universities on either of the three short lists (graduate schools, excellence clusters, or top universities) must now submit plans detailing how they would spend the money, Sabine Behrenbeck, head of the department of higher education and scientific career, and head of the project "Excellence Initiative" at the German Science Council (Wissenschaftsrat), a government advisor, told The Scientist. The international joint committee and the federal and state education and science ministries will review the proposals, and announce the winners in October.
Institutions will have a second chance to compete later this year. After winners are named, Germany will have approximately 40 new graduate schools, each receiving about 1 million euros a year; 30 new excellence clusters receiving 6.5 million euros each; and 10 top universities. Only universities which receive funding for a new graduate school and an excellence cluster are eligible to be named top university, with total annual extra funding at about 25 million euros a year.
In life sciences, the model for German universities could be the University of California at San Diego, which Behrenbeck said she sees as developing over the past 20 years into a global life sciences leader. "I am optimistic we will see this happen at some places in Germany in the next 10 to 15 years, too," she told The Scientist.
Links within this article
Short lists for graduate schools, excellence clusters, top universities
Germany Announces Shortlist for Elite Universities
European Life Scientist Organization
N. Stafford, "German 'ivy league' plan passed," The Scientist, July 5, 2005.
International Excellence Initiative Committee members
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