Tenth German-Russian Week of the Young Researcher “Collaborating Across Borders During the Pandemic”

(21.12.20) In mid-December, the DFG and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) hosted the tenth “German-Russian Week of the Young Researcher” at the German House for Research and Innovation (DWIH Moscow). Discussion focused on the current challenges facing cross-border research cooperation and the new role of research in society as a whole. In view of the pandemic, the anniversary week took place as a one-day online event, opened by DFG President Professor Katja Becker and featuring keynote speeches.

DFG President Becker welcomes the participants of the virtual German-Russian Week of the Young Researcher. From left: DFG President K. Becker, J. Achterberg (DFG Bonn), M. Rusakov (DWIH Moscow), B. Grzeski (German Embassy Moscow), A. Khlunov (RSF Dir

DFG President Becker welcomes the participants of the virtual German-Russian Week of the Young Researcher. From left: DFG President K. Becker, J. Achterberg (DFG Bonn), M. Rusakov (DWIH Moscow), B. Grzeski (German Embassy Moscow), A. Khlunov (RSF Director), A. Makarov (Engelhardt Institute Moscow), DAAD President J. Mukherjee (via video message), O. Dontsova (Lomonosov University Moscow), RFBR Council Chairman V. Panchenko (via video message).


At the opening, the approximately 200 participants were welcomed by the executive boards of the two lead organisations. The address given by DFG President Professor Katja Becker was followed by a video message from DAAD President Professor Joybrato Mukherjee. Envoy Beate Grzeski delivered official greetings from the German Embassy in Moscow in which she paid tribute to this academic event as an outstanding contribution to the ongoing Year of Germany in Russia. On the Russian side, the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) was represented by a video address given by its Council Chairman, Academy Member Vladislav Panchenko, while the Russian Science Foundation (RSF) was represented by Director General Dr. Aleksandr Khlunov.

The tenth Week of the Young Researcher was dominated by the pandemic as its title indicates. Given the restrictions, the week was reduced for the first time to a one-day virtual event divided into two sections. After the welcoming addresses, the first round of talks was devoted to "Challenges for Science and Prospects of Joint Research for Germany and Russia". Keynote speeches by the DFG, RFBR and RSF dealt with the current and future impact of the pandemic on research and the reactions of the three research funding organisations to the outbreak of the pandemic. The changed conditions prompted all the research organisations to act quickly and adopt a whole series of measures. Emergency funds were made available in both countries, for example, and thematic calls for proposals were issued, while in some cases even pandemic commissions were set up. All speakers, including Academy Member Olga Dontsova (Lomonosov University, Moscow), member of the RFBR Council, and Academy Member Aleksandr Makarov (Engelhardt Institute, Moscow), Chair of the RSF's Council of Experts, said that it was especially important to support early career investigators at this time: even during a pandemic, concern for the youngest generation of researchers and for individual scientific fields should not be neglected.

In the second section, “German-Russian Research Collaboration during the Pandemic”, ongoing research projects run by DWIH Moscow support organisations were presented. Early career investigators from the Helmholtz Association (UFZ Leipzig), the Leibniz Association (IFL Leipzig), RWTH Aachen University and Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences reported on their current experience, together with their Russian cooperation partners from Irkutsk, Moscow and Saint Petersburg. It became abundantly clear that despite massive restrictions to mobility, new opportunities for exchange were emerging as well – continuing or even starting under pandemic conditions.

The fundamental goal of the Week of the Young Researcher format is to create a broad network and intensify cooperation at the level of early career investigators. The conferences address interdisciplinary and forward-looking areas that also take into account current priorities and potential in terms of bilateral cooperation between Germany and Russia. The Week of the Young Researcher events were launched in 2011 at the initiative of the DAAD and the DFG as part of the German-Russian Year of Research, Education and Innovation and take place once a year at different locations in Russia with a varying thematic focus. They are organised in cooperation with the Russian research organisations at the country’s leading universities and research centres (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk).

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