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The Postdoc Experience in Germany. Dr. Max Voegler Director, DFG North America Office Washington, DC. Content. The Current Situation Current Approaches Open Questions. German Research Foundation (DFG). Who We Are & What We Do.

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the postdoc experience in germany

The Postdoc Experience in Germany

Dr. Max VoeglerDirector, DFG North America OfficeWashington, DC

content
Content
  • The Current Situation
  • Current Approaches
  • Open Questions

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

german research foundation dfg
German Research Foundation (DFG)

Who We Are & What We Do

Central publicly-financed funding organization for academic research in Germany (largest in Europe)

Member organization (universities, learned societies) serving all fields of science and the humanities

Promoting academic excellence on a competitive basis with independent multi-tiered peer review

Advisory function for politics

Special focus on supporting young academics

Promotinginternational research cooperation

Fostering links between science and industry

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

german research foundation dfg offices abroad
German Research Foundation (DFG)Offices Abroad
  • 6 international offices (Beijing, North America, Moscow, New Delhi, Tokyo, Sao Paolo)
  • Purpose of the DFG North America office
    • to support and expand cooperation with partner organizations in the USA and Canada
    • to maintain and extend contacts with current and former DFG award holders and alumni in the United States and Canada
    • to inform US and Canadian universities and research institutions about Germany as a location of science and research and about opportunities for research collaboration
    • to follow and assess science and research policy developments in the United States and Canada in fields relevant to the DFG with respect to basic research

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

content1
Content
  • The Current Situation
  • Current Approaches
  • Open Questions

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

the current situation in germany

university

university of applied sciences

arts and music college

The Current Situation in Germany

Higher Education and Research Landscape in Numbers

  • 110 universities (88 public, 22 private)
  • 55 art and music colleges (46 public, 9 private)
  • 213 universities of applied sciences (106 public, 107 private)
  • No tuition fees at public universities except in Bavaria and Lower Saxony (500 € / semester). No tuition at doctoral level.

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

the current situation in germany non university research institutions
The Current Situation in GermanyNon-University Research Institutions
  • Non-University Research
  • Max Planck Society (80 institutes)
  • Helmholtz Association (17 centers)
  • Leibniz Association (87 facilities)
  • FraunhoferGesellschaft (60 Institutes)
the current situation in germany1
The Current Situation in Germany

Some Statistics on PhDs in Germany

  • High number of PhDs awarded each year
    • 24,971 PhDs in 2009 = 2.3 % of population(U.S. has 1.4 %, in line with OECD average)
    • Below-average rates of BA/MA completion in Germany compared to OECD average (dual educational system)
  • Very high rates of PhD in some fields (percentage of BA/MA Students who go on to complete a PhD):
    • Chemistry = 91,9 %
    • Physics, Astronomy = 78,6 %
    • Biology = 59 %

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

the current situation in germany2
The Current Situation in Germany

The Role of the "Dr." in German Society

  • Only research doctorates in Germany, no professional degrees (MD, JD)
  • Predominantly (about two-thirds) individual PhDs following the traditional “apprentice – master” model

Among them many so-called “external” PhD students

  • Most PhDs enter private sector where degree offers (statistical) advantages for those who do not plan to pursue an academic career path:
  • Higher standing in society
  • Higher salary
  • Lower rates of unemployment

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

the current situation in germany3
The Current Situation in Germany

Academic Career Path

  • Postdoctoral phase:

→ primary objective: recruitment of university staff

  • The postdoc phase used to be spent completing a habilitation, required since the 1800s to be eligible for a professorship
  • It takes an average of 8 years to complete and is still pursued by roughly 10% of postdocs
  • Often referred to as Königsweg to a professorship

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

the current situation in germany4
The Current Situation in Germany

The Bottleneck in German Academia

Source: Anke Burkhardt, Presentation at GAIN Conference, Boston, 2010

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

the current situation in germany5
The Current Situation in Germany

Academic Career Path

  • Reforms begun in the mid-90s have focused on
    • Fostering a more structured environment for graduate studies (structured vs. individual PhD)
    • Promoting alternatives to the habilitation on the path to becoming a university professor
  • New career paths are supposed to lead to earlier research independence and remove the habilitation hurdle
    • Junior research group leader (in MPG since 1969, DFG 1999)
    • Junior professor (introduced in 2002)

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

the current situation in germany academic career path
The Current Situation in GermanyAcademic Career Path
  • Junior Professor:
    • Pros: very content with their position; write disproportionate number of grant proposals to DFG and have higher success rates than their peers
    • Cons: are not necessarily younger when they „finish“ than those that write a habilitation. Infrastructure available for research very dependent on university
  • Junior Research Group Leader
    • Pros: high degree of independence, financially and administratively. High level of satisfaction with salary, position and career perspectives; much higher percentage go on to become professors than any of the other groups
    • Cons: Rights and privileges must be negotiated individually in each case with university or host institution; status within larger academic system unclear / heterogeneous

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

the current situation in germany academic career path1
The Current Situation in GermanyAcademic Career Path
  • Habilitation / Assistant at Professorial Chair:
    • Pros: Mentoring, tradition within discipline
    • Cons: low degree of independence in research and teaching; high degree of personal dependency
  • But there are also alternatives to being a professor…
    • Mittelbau: (non)-Permanent scientific staff positions at universities, research institutes
    • Similar to "lecturer" in UK, focus on teaching or research, but without professorial chair and at lower salary scale
    • Very popular in 1970s and 80s, declining in importance in past twenty years, currently discussed again

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

the current situation in germany6
The Current Situation in Germany

National Differences in University Staff by Category

Professor

„Oberbau“

„Mittelbau“

Scientific staff (w/tenure)

Scientific staff (w/out tenure)

Source: Reinhardt Kreckel, Karrieremodelle an Universitäten im Internationalen Vergleich (2010), p. 38.

Netherlands 2009

UK 2009

USA 2008/2009

Germany 2008

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

the current situation in germany7
The Current Situation in Germany

The Bottleneck

Competition for permanent „Mittelbau“ positions in academia has worsened in recent years:

No significant increase in number of permanent positions (4.8% between 1995 and 2009)

Number of researchers funded by third-party money is increasing (120.5% between 1995 and 2009)

Move up or out: No clear career perspectives for most researchers at German universities

Source: Kreckel

Ratio of permanent to temporary positions for the „Mittelbau“

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

the current situation in germany8
The Current Situation in Germany

Legal Aspects (Labor Law)

Tenure track not permitted in many states due to laws against “Hausberufung” (appointment to professorial chair must come from outside own university) and “Verzicht auf Ausschreibung” (all permanent positions must be advertised).

German labor law very strict on certain aspects of employment as they related to research and higher education. Permanent positions (as professor, or in “Mittelbau”) should be rule, not exception. This is, of course, not the case.

Thus temporary positions are only allowed in following situations:

For up to 5 years without a reason (general labor law, starts w. 2 years, can be renewed)

For 12 years during the academic “qualification phase” (6 years before and 6 years after PhD) with “extra time” allowances for children and time spent abroad (HRG 2002)

Project-based funding through third-party or industry (strict regulation, HRG 2007)

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

the current situation in germany recap
The Current Situation in GermanyRecap
  • Role of PhD in Germany different
    • Many more PhDs per capita
    • PhD necessary but not sufficient for professorship (Habilitation)
    • But: not just professors in academia, also “Mittelbau” (scientific staff)
    • Most PhDs (and postdocs) continue into industry
  • Possible career paths to Professorship
    • Junior Research Group Leader
    • Habilitation
    • Junior Professor

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

content2
Content
  • The Current Situation
  • Current Approaches
  • Open Questions

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

current approaches
Current Approaches

Conference 2010 on Career Perspectives for Early Career Scientists

Recommendations:

  • Develop a more differentiated understanding of career perspectives in science that take into account the new role of universities and research institutions (interdisciplinary, international, projects, industry)
  • Create longer-term perspectives by introducing tenure-track for junior professors alongside other options, add more permanent positions for Mittelbau
  • Need for clearly structured career perspectives by aligning laws and regulations for tenure track et al. across all states and universities

„Der lange Weg zur Professur – Berufliche Perspektiven für Nachwuchswissenschaftler/innen (Berlin, June 2010)

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

current approaches1
Current Approaches

Conference 2010 on Career Perspectives for Early Career Scientists

  • Support for measures to balance family life and research career (work-life balance, dual career)
  • Additional measures to support early research independence (mentoring, support for networking activities)
  • All elements together should be seen as a „German model“ that addresses the systemic challenges currently facing postdocs within German system

„Der lange Weg zur Professur – Berufliche Perspektiven für Nachwuchswissenschaftler/innen (Berlin, June 2010)

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

current approaches2
Current Approaches

University of Bremen

  • Competetive Tenure Track after 4 ½ for Junior Professors (tenure review with external competition)
  • Dual Career Policy: university office helps spouses find position at university or in community
  • Senior Lecturer Position for Mittelbau
  • Also being discussed at the moment: Senior Scientist and Senior Researcher position

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

current approaches3
Current Approaches

DFG Programs – Emmy Noether

  • Purpose and Eligibility
    • To allow researchers to achieve early independence and to enable them to qualify for a university teaching career by leading their own independent junior research group.
    • Outstanding qualified postdoctoral researchers with significant international experience who are within two to four years (six years for medicine) after obtaining their doctorates
    • Usually five years of funding, approx 1.5 - 2 Mio Euros
    • Since 2010, EmmyNoether Research Group Leaders have been able to use part of their funding for science management courses at the University of Applied Science in Speyer. Many use this opportunity and we at DFG have received a lot of positive feedback.

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

current approaches4
Current Approaches

DFG Programs – other programs to support early career researchers

  • Heisenberg Fellow/Professor: similar to Emmy Noether but for those who have a habilitation.
  • Temporary Positions for Principal Investigators: PI can write full position for him/herself into grant
  • Special treatment of “first proposal” in review process
  • Scientific Network Program to enable early career researchers to form networks
  • Workshops for Early Career Investigators: topic and discipline-driven measures to promote more researchers to get PhD in certain fields

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

current approaches5
Current Approaches

Non-University Research Organization

The model of „junior research group leader“ widely adopted

  • Emmy Noether Program (DFG)
  • Max Planck Research Group Leader (MPG)
  • Fraunhofer Attract (FHG)
  • Helmholtz Institutes also have Junior Research Groups

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

content3
Content
  • The Current Situation
  • Current Approaches
  • Open Questions

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

challenges
Challenges

The “Mittelbau” Question

  • 80 % of research and teaching at universities done by Mittelbau, who are (for the most part) neither permanent staff nor are independent in their research
  • 74 % of academic personnel (employed doctoral researchers, postdocs, scientific staff) at universities in Germany do not have a permanent position.
  • Should Germany strengthen the “Mittelbau” and introduce measures to create additional career perspectives outside the professorship in academia (Lecturer, Staff Scientist, etc.)?

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

challenges1
Challenges

Do we really need "tenure track"?

  • Tenure track has a number of legal hurdles and does not naturally fit into the current German academic system.
  • Arguments for:
    • (More) reliable career perspectives
    • Adoption of “international standard”
  • Arguments against
    • alternative career paths to a full professorship exist
    • Quality assurance of candidates
    • More reliable career perspectives? Where would researchers go who don‘t get tenure?

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

challenges2
Challenges

Mentoring

  • Increasing pressure to perform independent research at high level early on
  • Desire to increase exchange and career transition possibilities between basic research - industry - government – (science) administration
  • When / where should mentoring occur? PhD stage? Postdoc? How structured? What sort of skills do recent PhDs need for various career paths?

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC

slide30

Thank you – any questions?

  • Further information
  • On the DFG: http://www.dfg.de
  • Fundedprojects: http://www.dfg.de/gepris
  • Research Explorer of Germany: http://www.dfg.de/rex

The Postdoc Experience in Germany / Max Voegler, DFG North America Office, Washington, DC