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Global Research Council (GRC)

The GRC is a voluntary, informal grouping of the heads of research councils from all over the world. It was set up in 2012 in Washington, D.C. as part of the "Global Summit on Merit Review", which was organised by the US organisation, the National Science Foundation (NSF). The former Director of the NSF, Dr. Subra Suresh, and Professor Dr.-Ing. Matthias Kleiner, who was President of the DFG at the time, were instrumental in the GRC's foundation.

It represents the majority of public research and research funding bodies which do not receive direct governmental funding and acts to strengthen international collaboration on research and between research funding organisations. Through regular preparatory conferences in different parts of the world and its annual meeting, it offers a forum in which current issues arising from the globalisation and internationalisation of science and the humanities and research and their funding can be discussed. The outcomes of these discussions are then used to formulate joint recommendations.

The regional conferences and annual meetings also provide a platform for sharing experiences and best practices that can help newly developing systems to establish new structures and processes.

Regional Meetings 2016/2017

As in previous years, in autumn 2016 the DFG once again participated in the worldwide regional meetings of the Global Research Council (GRC), which this year served as preparation for the 2017 annual meeting in Ottawa. Regional meetings are coordinated by the Executive Secretary, a post held since mid-2016 by Dr. Rainer Gruhlich from the DFG. The focus was on the two topics to be discussed by the heads of more than 70 funding and research organisations at the annual meeting in Ottawa: “Capacity building and connectivity among granting agencies worldwide” and “The dynamic interplay between fundamental research and innovation”. Although the annual meeting is being organised by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and CONCYTEC, Peru, in partnership with Canada’s International Development and Research Centre (IDRC), the regional meetings provided the DFG with an opportunity to raise specific issues.

Both topics – the dynamic interplay between basic research and innovation, and capacity-building and connectivity between funding organisations – are of particular relevance to developing and newly industrialising countries whose research systems are still being established and which hope for GRC support to develop structures and processes. In many cases, the two topics were therefore also discussed in relation to one another – for example at the regional meeting for North and South America, which was held for the first time in Buenos Aires at the end of October 2016, organised by Argentinian funding organisation CONICET. In addition to Dr. Rainer Gruhlich as Executive Secretary, this meeting was attended by the head of the DFG’s international office for Latin America, Dr. Kathrin Winkler.

The European regional meeting, traditionally the largest, which was organised by the Swiss National Science Foundation in partnership with Science Europe at the start of November in Küsnacht near Zurich, was particularly concerned with the value of basic research for innovation. On the basis of established regional and pan-European cooperation, participants identified instruments for a ‘toolbox’ to support capacity-building among funding and research organisations – for example staff exchanges, mentoring programmes and topic-based working groups. At this meeting the DFG was represented by Dr. Rainer Gruhlich as Executive Secretary of the GRC and also by Dr. Markus Behnke from the Scientific Affairs department and Dr. Beate Wilhelm, who is responsible for cooperation with Africa.

The Asia-Pacific regional meeting was held in November 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Traditionally the second biggest regional meeting, this year it was organised by the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), the host being Professor Zakri Abdul Hamid, Science Advisor to the Prime Minister. Special attention was given to the role of research and research organisations in society, with respect to both basic research and its measurable impact through innovation. The participants also identified significant potential for cooperation between research funding organisations, as supported by the GRC.

Since the 2012 annual meeting in Berlin which it organised, the DFG has been committed to the full integration of the African continent in the Global Research Council (GRC). Together with the National Research Foundation of South Africa, it provided organisational and financial assistance for the regional meetings in Stellenbosch (2014) and Swakopmund (2015) and the DFG also invited German and African researchers to accompanying academic symposia. The DFG has also developed its Africa concept on the basis of experience gained from GRC regional meetings in recent years. The aim of the concept is to agree on a framework to facilitate research cooperation among researchers and the relevant funding, but also to identify and stimulate potential for collaborative research. With this end in mind, alongside the regional meeting in November 2016 in Maputo, the DFG, together with Mozambique’s Fundo Nacional De Investigacao (FNI) and South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF), once again organised a two-day academic symposium, this time on the funding of international cooperation in the agricultural sciences. As well as Dr. Beate Wilhelm, this event was attended by Dr. Jörg Schneider, head of the International Affairs division, Dr. Patricia Schmitz-Möller, the programme director responsible for this area in the Scientific Affairs department, and researchers from Germany invited by the DFG to take part in discussions with African cooperation partners. To promote capacity-building and support African funding organisations in the development of structures and processes, the DFG has also been involved in the Science Granting Councils Initiative since 2015. This initiative of the NRF in South Africa in partnership with the IDRC in Canada is also involved in the organisation of the GRC’s 2017 annual meeting in Ottawa.

The round of GRC regional conferences concluded with the regional meeting for the Middle East and North Africa at the beginning of January 2017, organised by CNRST (Morocco) in cooperation with KACST (Saudi Arabia), which brought together representatives of funding organisations in the Arab world for the first time in North Africa. In the Moroccan capital, delegates agreed that a ‘culture of innovation’ must build on existing social foundations such as the level of education of the population and that simply copying innovation programmes from other parts of the world was to be avoided. Rather, it was stressed that the joint funding of research fields of interest to the entire region must have priority and that this joint funding would also have positive impacts in terms of capacity-building. Led by the Qatar National Science Foundation with the support of the DFG, a workshop will be held in March 2017 in Qatar to advance multilateral cooperation in the region.

At its meeting in late January in Lima, Peru, the International Steering Committee, which includes representatives of all host organisations as well as Executive Secretary Dr. Rainer Gruhlich and Dr. Jörg Schneider as chair of the Executive Support Group, discussed the results of the five regional meetings and, on this basis, developed proposals for concrete measures and initiatives for funding organisations. The resolution documents drafted by the ISC in Lima will form the basis for discussion between the heads of the funding and research organisations which belong to the GRC at the annual meeting in Ottawa at the end of May 2017.

2016 Annual Global Meeting

2016 Annual Meeting of the Global Research Council in New Delhi, India

The 5th annual meeting of the Global Research Council (GRC) was held from 25 to 27 May 2016 in New Delhi at the invitation of the Science and Engineering Research Board of India (SERB) and Research Councils UK (RCUK). Once again, more than 60 senior representatives of research funding and research organisations from all over the world came together at the annual gathering.

This year’s meeting focused on the significance of interdisciplinary research and the principles relating to its funding. In their final declaration, the Heads of Research Councils (HORCs) emphasised that interdisciplinarity is not an end in itself but a means of achieving excellence in research. Funding organisations are called on to work together to create the necessary frameworks for this.

The meeting also adopted a Statement of Principles and Actions on the promotion of equal opportunity for women in research. This linked in to last year’s declaration, which contained an appeal to “recruit and retain the best research talents in all their diversity” – an appeal which was already implicit in the final declaration of the 2014 meeting in Beijing on the best way to support the next generation of researchers. With regard to equal opportunity for women in research, the participants adopted a set of concrete recommendations, the implementation of which will be monitored. With this already in mind, the GRC annual meeting was also accompanied by a workshop on ‘Exploring Practical Approaches to Applying the Gender Lens in STI in Africa’, hosted by the National Research Foundation of South Africa.

Dr. Ramasamy Brakaspathy, secretary of the Science and Engineering Research Board, expressed his delight that so many heads of research councils had accepted the invitation to New Delhi. He noted that both topics are of the utmost importance worldwide, but in very concrete terms in India, where the SERB and other research organisations are expressly working to promote interdisciplinarity and equal opportunity in research.

Professor Philip Nelson, Chair of RCUK, commended the joint adoption of the two statements of principles as a basis for closer collaboration between research councils worldwide, founded on shared standards and principles, and as a call to establish greater capacities for this purpose across all funding organisations. He also noted that the agreement on uniform standards and principles clearly demonstrates the enormous value of the GRC as a forum for sharing best practices.

At the conclusion of the GRC annual meeting in New Delhi, Dr. Rainer Gruhlich (DFG) accepted the office of Executive Secretary. The Governing Board had unanimously elected him back in March 2016 as the successor to Dr. Graham Harrison (National Science Foundation). Dr. Gruhlich will hold this office until the 2017 annual meeting in Ottawa, Canada.

The following new members were also elected to the Governing Board:

  • Professor Michael Matlosz, President, Science Europe (re-elected)
  • Dr. Molapo Qhobela, CEO, National Research Foundation of South Africa
  • Professor Zakri Abdul Hamid, Secretary, National Science Council of Malaysia
  • ex officio: Gisella Orjeda, President, CONCYTEC (Peru)

2015 Annual Global Meeting

The 4th Annual Global Meeting of the Global Research Council (GRC) took place from 26 - 28 May 2015 in Tokyo. The meeting, which was organised by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) and the South African National Research Foundation (NRF), was attended by senior representatives of more than 70 research funding and research organisations from all over the globe, including a notable number from sub-Saharan Africa.

In his welcome address, the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzō Abe, stressed one of the key concerns of the GRC: on the basis of a shared understanding of research and its most important tasks, to construct uniform standards that support new and developing research and funding organisations to develop their structures and processes, and thus improve the basis for international cooperation.

This lent significance to the declarations of the participants, who acknowledged the value of free, knowledge-driven research as an essential foundation for social and economic prosperity, and the need and political responsibility to provide the necessary capacities and take concrete measures to achieve this. This consensus had been prepared at GRC regional conferences around the world, but this made it no less impressive as a unanimous global commitment.

At a symposium preceding the GRC meeting, DFG President Peter Strohschneider called once again for basic research free from specified aims and topics. In a much-praised address at the meeting, he outlined a number of issues which he considers central, paradigmatic problems and then described the resulting potential for international cooperation.

2014 Annual Global Meeting

Open access was also a focus of attention at the GRC's 3rd Annual Global Meeting in May 2014 in Beijing. In addition to a report on global progress on open access, senior representatives of more than 60 research and funding organisations discussed ways of finding a common basis for the support of early career researchers.

The meeting was organised by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Germany was represented by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and its President, Professor Dr. Peter Strohschneider, who had also chaired the Governing Board since 2013. During the final session at the Sino-German Center for Research Promotion (SGC), which was opened by the DFG and its partner organisation NSFC in 2000, since which time it has played an important role in the expansion of scientific cooperation between the two countries, Strohschneider underlined the importance of science and research to social development and business innovation. "In order to achieve their full potential, science and research need space and scope in addition to as much funding as possible. The GRC can make a significant contribution in this respect. Concerned with important overarching themes such as the principles of multilateral collaboration on research, good scientific practice, early career support and open access, it facilitates processes through which international agreement can be achieved and make a considerable contribution to such principles," said Strohschneider.

2013 Annual Global Meeting

The 2nd Annual Global Meeting of the GRC took place on 27 - 29 May 2013 in Berlin and was hosted by the German Research Foundation (DFG) in cooperation with the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq). The meeting was attended by the heads of around 70 research and funding organisations from all over the world. The focal point of the meeting was the adoption of a joint paper on the principles of good scientific practice and an action plan for progress towards open access to scientific publications. Both documents had been prepared at GRC regional conferences around the world prior to the meeting. The statutes of the Global Research Council were also approved in Berlin.