International Relations as a Basis for Cooperation
Worldwide Research Collaboration
One of the DFG’s primary activities as stated in its statutes is to foster relations between scientists and academics at home and abroad.
This begins with young researchers. Of the approximately 1,000 fellowships awarded each year by the DFG to young postdoctoral scientists in its various programmes for young researchers, more than two-thirds are used to fund a research stay abroad. The personal knowledge gained and contacts made as a result of these visits form a basis for future cooperation. Research Training Groups also collaborate with institutions in neighbouring European countries as well as with countries overseas. Similarly, Priority Programmes and Collaborative Research Centres are becoming increasingly international. This creates synergetic effects and, at the same time, serves to enhance the competitiveness of research in Germany.
In order to facilitate or enable such cooperation, the DFG has concluded bilateral agreements with partner organisations in 25 European countries and 27 countries abroad. These agreements govern the exchange of information and offer assistance and support for scientific cooperation, generally on a reciprocal basis. They often make provisions for the exchange of researchers, in particular for the purpose of initiating or preparing cooperative projects.
In most countries, a national academy is responsible for maintaining international relations. As Germany did not have such a scientific organisation before the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina was elevated to the status National Academy of Sciences in 2008, the DFG used to take on international responsibility for a series of coordinating and representative tasks. It continues to represent the interests of the research community at a non-governmental level. Many research activities which involve work sharing at an international level, primarily programmes on global change, need an organisational infrastructure and mechanisms for planning and reaching a consensus on programme goals. To guarantee that this is achieved, many national scientific organisations and several international scientific societies joined together to form the International Council for Science (ICSU). The DFG is a national member of the ICSU. At the same time, it supports the involvement of German researchers in the bodies of the ICSU and in international scientific associations. This ensures the participation of German scientists in global research activities, such as Antarctic research, oceanography, and environmental, climate and water research.
In addition, the DFG is a member of the European Science Foundation (ESF), the “voice of science” in European research policy. The presidents of scientific organisations from the G8 countries also hold regular meetings. EUROHORCs (European Union Research Organisations Heads of Research Councils) was founded on the basis of the G8 model as a discussion forum for the presidents of European research organisations.
Cooperative projects with foreign partners are supported on the principle of joint responsibility: researchers working in Germany turn to the DFG for financial support, while their cooperation partners working abroad contact the funding bodies in their own country. A programme funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the DFG promotes research cooperation with developing countries which, from a development policy point of view, is beneficial to the host country. Additional costs incurred by the foreign cooperating partners can be paid from resources provided by the ministry.
Scientific relations between the DFG and neighbouring western European countries are traditionally strong and have been further enhanced by the European Union Framework Programmes. In funding the EU Liaison Office of the German Research Organisations (KoWi), the DFG supports a central research facility, with offices in Bonn and Brussels, which provides advice to support the participation of researchers from Germany in EU funding programmes.