When Stefanie Dimmeler became professor of molecular cardiology in Frankfurt last year, researchers hailed her as one of Germany's youngest tenured scientists. Obtaining a tenured professorship at age 33 may not seem like something out of the ordinary to some US researchers, but Dimmeler beat most of her German colleagues by 10 years.
To help make that country more attractive to bright scientists like Dimmeler, Federal Education Minister Edelgard Bulmahn introduced a law in January 2002 that radically changed the academic workplace. The law creates junior professorships, similar to the American system of assistant or associate professors, and it also makes it possible to obtain a professorship after a career in industry.
For the last century, German scientists have routinely remained in postdoctoral purgatory for more than a decade, in a system much criticized as patriarchal. Postdoctoral scientists are assigned to a professor, and they must then acquire...