DFG Secretary General Dorothee Dzwonnek visits St. Petersburg universities

(22.06.12) Between 18 and 20 June 2012, representatives of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) visited St. Petersburg to present the latest outcomes of the Excellence Initiative and the new DFG Research Atlas in Russia. The delegation led by DFG Secretary General Dorothee Dzwonnek was received by the German Consul General, Benedikt Haller, and held meetings with the rectors of the State University and the State Polytechnical University, at which DFG reviewers presented their research partnerships to expand bilateral cooperation in the natural and engineering sciences. The delegation also visited the German-Russian Otto Schmidt Laboratory (OSL) and met with German recipients of the Russian science ministry's 'mega-grants'.

An der Staatlichen Universität St. Petersburg: Daniel Bovelet (DFG-Referent), Klaus Wehrberger (DFG-Gruppenleiter), Dorothee Dzwonnek (DFG-Generalsekretärin), Prorektor Nikolay Skvortsov (SPbGU), Jelena Smolonogina (Übersetzerin, Herzen-Universität)

At St. Petersburg State University: Daniel Bovelet (DFG officer), Klaus Wehrberger (DFG head of division), Dorothee Dzwonnek (DFG Secretary General), Vice-Rector Nikolay Skvortsov (SPbGU), Elena Smolonogina (translator, Herzen University)

At the invitation of Rector Nikolay Kropachev, the DFG gave a presentation at St. Petersburg State University. Firstly, DFG Secretary General Dorothee Dzwonnek, Klaus Wehrberger (head of Research Centres division) and Daniel Bovelet (Information Management division ) spoke about the Excellence Initiative and the new DFG Research Atlas before taking questions from the audience. Together with Lomonosov Moscow State University, St. Petersburg State University with its 36 000 students enjoys a special status in the Russian university system and is to receive a total of €125 million over five years.

Dorothee Dzwonnek (DFG-Generalsekretärin) und Nikolay Kropachev (Rektor)

Dorothee Dzwonnek (DFG Secretary General) and Nikolay Kropachev (Rector)

At the State Polytechnical University the German delegation was received by the Rector, Andrei Rudskoi, and the Vice-Rector for International Relations, Dmitry Arseniev. Together the group discussed forms of future bilateral cooperation. With over 29 000 students, the Polytechnical University is one of the largest and oldest technical universities in Russia. Founded in 1899 as the Polytechnical Institute, in 2010 it was given the status of a National Research University, entitling it to funding of €125 million.

Michael Lentze, who is responsible for fluid mechanics and microsystems within the DFG's Engineering Sciences division, and DFG reviewer Wolfgang Schröder (RWTH Aachen University) gave a presentation on current DFG projects in their field. Eckart Rühl (Free University of Berlin), spokesperson for the Physical and Theoretical Chemistry review board, spoke about the German-Russian Interdisciplinary Science Center (G-RISC) in St. Petersburg, where key areas of collaboration include interdisciplinary areas of physics, geophysics, physical chemistry and mathematics. The project is receiving €1.25 million from the German Federal Foreign Office as part of the German Research Abroad Initiative.

An der Polytechnischen Universität St. Petersburg: Wolfgang Schröder (RWTH Aachen), Andrej Rudskoj (Rektor), Dorothee Dzwonnek (DFG-Generalsekretärin), Daniel Bovelet (DFG), Eckart Rühl (FU Berlin), Klaus Wehrberger (DFG), Michael Lentze (DFG)

At St. Petersburg State Polytechnical University: Wolfgang Schröder (RWTH Aachen University), Andrei Rudskoi (Rector), Dorothee Dzwonnek (DFG Secretary General), Daniel Bovelet (DFG), Eckart Rühl (Free University of Berlin), Klaus Wehrberger (DFG), Michael Lentze (DFG)

At the German-Russian Otto Schmidt Laboratory for Polar and Marine Research (OSL), the delegation was welcomed by Ivan Frolov, director of the State Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI), where the OSL is based. The representatives of the DFG were given a guided tour of the institute by the two directors of the OSL, Heidemarie Kassens and Irina Fyodorova, and Jens Hölemann. This was followed by presentations by early career researchers from the OSL on the results of current research expeditions. Founded in 2000, the OSL is the central interface for German-Russian projects in marine and polar research and in recent years has successfully obtained third-party funding from the DFG and other organisations.

Here, the delegation also learned about the latest developments in the Russian research landscape and spoke to recipients of Russia's 'mega-grants'. Jörn Thiede, former director of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Bremerhaven, reported on his geosciences project at St. Petersburg State University. He is one of 12 German researchers to receive €3.5 million to establish a research laboratory at a Russian host university. The Russian Ministry of Education and Science (MON) approved 79 out of 1024 applications for the available funding. Mega-grants are a move by the Russian government to promote innovative university-based research and to increase the internationalisation and attractiveness of Russian universities. As part of the process of university reform, this individual funding is being accompanied by a massive expansion of infrastructure at the new Federal Universities (8) and the National Research Universities (29), which will each receive around €125 million.

Delegation am OSL mit Dorothee Dzwonnek und Heidemarie Kassens (Bildmitte) und Jörn Thiede (2.v.l.)

Delegation at the OSL with Dorothee Dzwonnek and Heidemarie Kassens (centre) and Jörn Thiede (2nd from left)

"After the bilateral Year of Science, which ends in May 2012, the DFG wants to continue strengthening links with Russia's 'northern capital'," said DFG Secretary General Dorothee Dzwonnek. Plenty of opportunities are already provided by Russia's Germany Year 2012/13, as part of which the DFG is planning various activities in St. Petersburg. The city, which is the second largest in Russia, is home to 15% of the country's research potential, and with its 100 universities and 60 research institutes, offers a very wide range of cooperation possibilities for German universities.