German-Russian Year of Education, Science and Innovation Opens in Moscow

Germany and Russia are linked by a long tradition of intensive scientific exchange and research cooperation. As early as the 17th and 18th centuries, the universal scholars Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov cultivated close relationships with Russia and Germany respectively.

On 23 May 2011, the Russian Minister of Education and Research, Andrei A. Fursenko, and his German counterpart, Federal Minister Annette Schavan, declared the “German-Russian Year of Education, Science and Innovation” open at Moscow State University, which is named after Lomonosov. The theme of the event is “partnership of ideas”. The opening ceremony underscored the fact that this joint science year is the result of a common and long-established tradition. Minister Schavan stated during the opening ceremony that there is potential for establishing transnational science years everywhere there is already a lively exchange and a great interest in the scientific partners.

Despite all the historical references, the focus of the science year was, however, firmly on the future. Fursenko emphasised that the event should be considered less of a culmination and more of a kickoff for further projects and cooperation. DFG Vice President Professor Peter Funke canvassed for specific projects and expressly incorporated the European context, saying, “Let us use this important German-Russian year to raise our cooperation to a new level. May it also contribute to the further integration of Russia into the European Research Area.” The next twelve months will, on the one hand, strengthen top-level research through expanding cooperation at institutional level. On the other, they will specifically address the issue of young researchers as a “connecting link in a lively partnership”. Schavan emphasised the relevance of the “basic research as a treasure chest” concept, underlining its importance as a source of future prosperity and as an engine driving modernisation.

Strengthening Partnerships, Establishing Cooperation

The central keyword here was “strengthening relationships”. The DFG delegation accompanying Vice President Funke took the opportunity provided by the launch of the science year to meet with the chairman of the Russian Foundation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (RGNF), Professor Vladimir N. Fridlyanov. Since 2005, an agreement between the RGNF and the DFG has facilitated the promotion of joint scientific seminars. During a round-table session, the delegations formulated an intention to intensify the RGNF and DFG funding initiatives. The delegation’s agenda also included a meeting with the new Vice Minister of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, Dr. Sergey Ivanetz. Here, the discussion focused on the German Excellence Initiative, as well as on the comparable Russian programmes for establishing federal and national research universities.

Scientific Experts in Discussion

The closing highlight in a series of opening events was the second German-Russian scientific discussion held as part of the series of discussions initiated last year by the DFG and the RFBR, the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, under the auspices of the Deutsche Haus für Wissenschaft und Innovation (DWIH) [German House for Research and Innovation] in Moscow. Ten high-ranking experts from leading Russian and German scientific organisations discussed the topic of “Germany and Russia in the European Research Area” jointly with the EU delegation for the first time. During the discussion, the participants – including representatives from major DFG partners like the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN), the RFBR, and the RGNF – analysed strategies and instruments of collaboration, as well as the situation of early-career researchers in joint research projects. The discussion also addressed issues raised in the discussions and presentations held the previous day. German Ambassador Ulrich Brandenburg welcomed around 60 invited guests to this evening event, which provided opportunities for both for retrospection and looking forwards. “How significant is the increasing autonomy of higher education institutes in Russia?” “Can a passion for research compensate for different earnings structures?”, “Which factors promote the mobility of young researchers?”, “How much trust does research funding need?” The experts addressed these questions, as well as what are known as Russian “mega-grants”, and the structurising nature of the Excellence Initiative and International Research Training Groups. The participants were unanimous in their agreement that, while there is tremendous potential for cooperation in the two countries, information on possible partners and funding instruments is still, in certain areas, somewhat lacking. Joint events held and networks established during the science year are expected to be particularly helpful in highlighting new perspectives here. The conclusion: the discussion was a multifaceted one which facilitated a broad exchange of ideas. It is, therefore, expected to serve as a stimulus for the organisation of further cooperation projects.

DFG Events in the Science Year

The DFG is celebrating the science year with its summer reception in Moscow on 15 June. The following events are planned during the rest of the year:

  • 19-23 September: «The Young Scientists’ Week» in Kazan, organised by the DAAD, DFG, DWIH
  • 15 December: An expert panel discussion on «German-Russian Researcher Mobility» in Berlin, organised by the DFG and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
  • April 2012: An exchange of experiences by the German-Russian International Research Training Groups in Moscow, organised by the DFG and the RFBR