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Research in Germany (RiG) Tour in Houston and Austin, Texas

(22.02.18) Texas, like many states located off the East or West Coast, is often overlooked or neglected by German policy makers. Wrongfully so, as shown by a recent “Research in Germany” tour including information sessions and discussions with university leaders that was organized by the DFG New York Office in connection with the AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin, TX.

Based on its population size (just under 28 million), Texas has a GDP comparable to that of Canada, is home to the two wealthiest public higher education systems (University of Texas System and Texas A & M University System), and - with MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) in Houston - has one of the world's largest concentrations of medical centers. With nearly 8 million patients treated each year it is larger than that of the Bay Area and Greater Boston Area combined. Moreover, private universities like Rice in Houston and the University of Houston (UH) are both ranked by the Carnegie Classification as "R1: Doctoral Universities - Highest Research Activity" of the country's top 100 research universities.

The information tour kicked off on February 13 at MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) with a RiG information event focusing on life sciences and a joint presentation by Gerrit Roessler (GCRI New York) and Stefan Altevogt (DFG New York). A Q&A session and a network reception followed, which offered a good opportunity for the 35 postdocs to familiarize themselves with research possibilities in Germany.

On the next day, the RiG delegation (Rainer Gruhlich, DFG North America Office; Nina Lemmens, DAAD North America Office; Gerrit Rößler, GCRI New York; Bernd Reindl, Deputy Consul General in Houston; Markus Lemmens, Liaison Office of the University of Freiburg and KIT; Stefan Altevogt, DFG New York Office) had meetings with department chairs and university management at the University of Houston (UH), including UH’s provost Paula Myrick Short. The RiG information session at UH attracted about 60 participants of all career levels and the guests were invited to a reception held by the RiG delegation and the German consul general in Houston, Thomas H. Meister, following the event.

On February 15, the delegation (with Robin Mishra and Karsten Hess of the German Embassy in Washington, DC) visited the flagship campus of the University of Texas in Austin, where a number of talks with senior university officials and a RiG briefing as well as a closing reception took place. Through all of these events, the awareness of Germany as an internationally competitive and attractive science landscape with continuing and sustainable public R&D investments was raised.

On the final days of the tour, February 16 and 17, the RiG delegation was invited by the European Commission to represent Germany at the "Destination Europe" exhibition booth along other European countries at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin. The AAAS Annual Meeting was previously not the focus of the RiG network partners due to its emphasis on science policy and RiG's past concentration on larger professional and career fairs; however, the European initiative was gratefully received by both the RiG partners and also the other European countries. The success of the RiG delegation's tour in Texas therefore went well beyond the initial intent to visit a previously “underserved” region in the US.