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News │ Wednesday, 2. May 2012

An important signal to strengthen science and research

Science organisations welcome Federal Government’s draft of Academic Freedom Act

The German science organisations have welcomed the draft Academic Freedom Act adopted today by the Federal Cabinet as an important signal for the competitiveness of science and research. The draft strengthens science and research and the institutions promoting it, and assures them greater freedom in central areas such as budgets, personnel, corporate shareholding and construction projects. The science organisations consider these important prerequisites in order to remain nationally and internationally successful.

Joint statement of German science organisations, 2. May 2012

The future Academic Freedom Act will apply to the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Max Planck Society, the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. In the science organisations’ view, the draft legislation drawn up on the initiative of the Federal Minister for Education and Research recognises that the legal framework is increasingly becoming a competitive factor in science and research. Science and the institutions promoting it find themselves required to respond with increasing speed and flexibility to current challenges. The ability to act on their own initiative is becoming ever more important, while legal and bureaucratic hurdles constitute ever greater disadvantages. The question of how research-friendly the legal environment is increasingly determines not only the ability of science in general to operate and achieve successes, but also its attractiveness for junior researchers and outstanding academics from abroad. Moreover, the demands of professional science management are growing steadily.

Against this background, the science organisations previously welcomed the initial temporary increases in flexibility which the Federal Government has brought underway since 2008. Academia and the science organisations have used this leeway efficiently and responsibly, and continue to consider themselves under obligation to make use of the freedoms they have been accorded in a responsible and transparent manner, and – not least in their own interests with regard to the optimal use of funds – accompany the associated measures with suitable, academia-appropriate controlling. The science organisations do so in the expectation that the new Academic Freedom Act will make permanent and gradually expand the increases in flexibility so far achieved.

The science organisations believe that the future Academic Freedom Act will deliver positive and long-term benefits in all areas: In budgeting, the planned introduction of global budgets is a decisive step that will permit institutions to use their funds even more efficiently and research-appropriately. The possibility of carrying funds over across academic years and budget areas will provide significant advantages, as will the removal of binding staff plans.

The planned Act will also lead to more flexible structures in terms of staffing. In this respect the science organisations especially welcome the fact that the betterment ban has been largely restricted to German public funds, allowing third-party funding from non-governmental sources to be drawn upon in setting salaries for science-relevant personnel. Lastly, the science organisations also view as positive the planned accelerations and simplifications for academic institutions participating in companies, and those regarding construction projects. These measures too serve to strengthen the international competitiveness of German research, as does the draft Act as a whole.

In the view of the science organisations, a rapid and thorough implementation of the draft Act is now required. The legislative procedure is not the sole deciding factor here. The Academic Freedom Act will only be truly effective if corresponding entries are made in the annual budget plans. Academia therefore depends on continuous parliamentary support. In this context, the science organisations wish to acknowledge the previous outstanding commitment of the Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment and the Budget Committee of the German Bundestag.

It will also be necessary to involve the Länder, as the institutions that will fall under the Academic Freedom Act are largely funded jointly by the Federal Government and the Länder. Moreover, the science organisations maintain the hope that the Academic Freedom Act will have a signal effect for the Länder, which so far have pursued differing approaches in this regard, and that the academic system in Germany as a whole will also undergo a positive development at this point.

CONTACT

Leopoldina

Caroline Wichmann

Head of Department Press and Public Relations

Phone 0345 - 472 39 - 800
Fax 0345 - 472 39 - 809
E-Mail caroline.wichmann @leopoldina.org

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