Press Release No. 36 | August 21, 2023

DFG President’s North America Trip – Focus on Strengthening Transatlantic Partnerships

Expansion of bilateral funding opportunities / First Memorandum of Understanding with Canadian SSHRC / Talks with US National Institutes of Health

Expansion of bilateral funding opportunities / First Memorandum of Understanding with Canadian SSHRC / Talks with US National Institutes of Health

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) strongly believes that transatlantic partnerships in science and the humanities and research should be deepened and further strengthened, especially in times of geopolitical challenges. For this purpose, DFG President Professor Dr. Katja Becker recently set off on a trip lasting several days to Canada and the US. On Tuesday, she will start by visiting the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in Ottawa. Becker will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), likewise in Ottawa. This is the DFG’s first comprehensive agreement with the SSHRC and seeks to facilitate future collaborations with Canada, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. On the following day, Becker and the DFG delegation will travel on to Washington DC for consultations with US partner organisations.

In particular, Becker will be talking to SSHRC President Dr. Ted Hewitt about issues that are central to research and society such as sustainability, diversity, the responsible use of artificial intelligence and greater awareness of dual-use technologies. “If we wish to take a stand on these issues in the current geopolitical situation, it is best to do so together. This is why the Memorandum of Understanding is so significant: it’s not just an important step towards creating a joint German-Canadian research space in the humanities and social sciences – we’re also enabling an unhindered exchange of ideas and strengthening research freedom in the two countries. This is the only way we can jointly support progress on key social issues, too,” said Becker before the start of the trip.

Building on existing collaborations between the DFG and the SSHRC, the memorandum seeks to intensify cooperation between the two organisations. For more than 15 years now, the SSHRC has been a member of the “Bonn Group”, an informal association of group heads and organisational leaders representing four European and two North American research funding organisations in the social sciences. In addition, the DFG and SSHRC are both involved in a call for proposals entitled “International Joint Initiative for Research on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation” which was launched by Canada. This funds research projects that address at least two of the eight key risks identified in the latest Global Climate Report. The projects under this call for proposals are scheduled to start in March next year.

Becker also has an appointment to engage in discussion with NSERC President Professor Dr. Alejandro Adem in Ottawa. Here she will seek to address not only the value of international research cooperation but also the risks involved, especially in connection with the misappropriation of research results. “It’s essential to engage in continuous dialogue on these issues, especially with partners like Canada who share similar values to our own,” said Becker ahead of the trip. Adem has been Chairman of the Governing Board of the Global Research Council (GRC) since the end of May this year, having taken over this office from the DFG President herself.

In Washington DC on Wednesday, the DFG President will hold talks for the first time at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) as well as meeting the new Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the United States of America, Andreas Michaelis. This meeting is also to involve discussion of cooperation with the German consulates general and embassies in the US, which work closely with the DFG’s three locations in North America: in addition to its offices in Washington DC and New York, the DFG opened a branch at the German Centre for Research and Innovation (DWIH) in San Francisco just a year ago.

On Thursday, DFG Vice President Professor Dr. Britta Siegmund, who is accompanying Becker on her trip, will meet with representatives of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Discussions here will focus on issues such as translation in the context of clinical research and the role of clinician scientists in university medicine. Siegmund will then visit the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to explore further opportunities for research cooperation between the DFG and the NCI.

Afterwards, Becker and Siegmund will travel on to attend the 23rd GAIN Annual Meeting, which will take place from 25 to 27 August in Boston. Jointly organised by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH) and the DFG, this event is aimed at researchers from Germany who are in the early stages of their careers in the US.

Further information

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