Last week saw the launch of the Federation of Biological and Biomedical Societies (VBBM), a German umbrella organization for learned societies in the life sciences that aims to be a contact point for politicians, the public, and the media.

The 13 founding societies of the VMMB represent 17,000 of Germany's 40,000 active life scientists. Jörg Maxton-Küchenmeister, head of the Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, who helped set up the VBBM, expects that number to rise to 25,000 by the end of the year, as other societies have already expressed their interest in joining.

But there are 70 learned societies in German life sciences, and past attempts to form an overarching voice have not had much success. In 1990, for example, the Union of German Biological Societies was formed, but the organization never gained momentum and was dissolved in 2002—partly due to a lack of financial resources,...

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