Closing Event of the German-Russian Year of University and Science Cooperation 2018/2020

(30.09.20) On 15 September, the final conference of the “German-Russian Theme Year of University and Science Cooperation” took place under the title “German-Russian Dialogue in Science and Education: Shaping the Future Together”. Under the auspices of the Federal Foreign Office and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, high-ranking representatives of both countries met – both physically and virtually – in Berlin and Moscow. The two ministries first presented awards to 25 German-Russian science projects that emerged as winners in the competition “Bridges for German-Russian University and Science Cooperation”. After this, there were various panel discussions and live broadcasts that examined the prospects for German-Russian cooperation in more detail.

Screenshot der Videobotschaft der DFG-Präsidentin aus dem virtuellen Raum der Veranstaltung

The 25 award-winning German-Russian projects included two large-scale DFG-funded research collaborations: the first German-Russian Collaborative Research Centre TRR 160 “Coherent Manipulation of Interacting Spin Excitations in Tailored Semiconductors” was one of the winners. More than 150 scientists from the Ioffe Institute and St. Petersburg State University as well as from TU Dortmund University and the universities of Bochum and Paderborn were involved. The “Freiburg-Moscow Model – Cultural Transfer and Early Career Support” run by the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg and the Russian State University for the Humanities (RGGU) in Moscow was also recognised for its 20 years of cooperation. One major factor in the success of the latter is the International Research Training Group “Cultural Transfer and ‘Cultural Identity’ – German-Russian Contacts in the European Context”, which was established in 2014 as the first German-Russian Research Training Group (GRK 1956) in the field of the humanities.

In the subsequent dialogue forum on current perspectives and the challenges facing German-Russian cooperation, with leading politicians and scientists taking part, DFG President Katja Becker said in her video message that 2020 was a special year for academic relations: the DFG signed its first cooperation agreement with the Academy of Sciences of the USSR 50 years ago (in 1970); 25 years ago (in 1995) the DFG established relations with the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR); and five years ago (in 2015), the DFG issued its first joint call for proposals in collaboration with the newly established Russian Science Foundation (RSF).

RFBR Council Chair Vladislav Panchenko congratulated the DFG on the 100th anniversary of the foundation of its predecessor organisation. In his video message on science cooperations with German partner institutions he particularly emphasised the role of the DFG, with which the RFBR has successfully engaged in joint funding of bilateral projects in cutting-edge research for 25 years and which was one of the RFBR’s first international partner organisations. In his panel contribution, RSF Deputy Director Andrey Blinov also gave an extremely positive assessment of the project funding with the DFG that was initiated in 2015.

The panel discussions focused on the question of how science organisations and research institutes might develop instruments to further develop teaching and research in spite of the limitations imposed by the pandemic. Discussion also addressed the DFG initiatives presented in Katja Becker’s welcome message, which included a thematically broad-based call for proposals for pandemic research and the establishment of a high-level interdisciplinary commission for research into the pandemic.

In conclusion, participants noted that in view of the excellent ongoing collaboration between German and Russian scientists, it should certainly be possible to further enhance cooperation between the two countries in the fields of research and science – even in politically difficult times. “Our wonderful scientific contacts will outlast the coronavirus crisis and always provide a bridge between our two societies, even in politically turbulent times,” said DFG President Katja Becker, summing up the event in her video message.

The German-Russian Year of University and Science Cooperation was initiated in 2018 to honour the diversity of the cooperation and raise its visibility among the public at large. The theme year involved more than 100 events held in the most diverse towns and cities in Russia and Germany, in which the DFG was involved with numerous conferences and workshops. Many projects will continue beyond the theme year, as will the DFG’s local presence in Russia. With the help of the DFG Office Moscow, it has been possible to support well over 300 projects with Russian involvement and a funding volume of €100 million in the last three-year period alone.

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