Press Release No. 3 | January 30, 2024

“Science and the Humanities in Favour of Democracy and Cosmopolitanism”

Statement by DFG President Katja Becker to the Committee of Experts for the Excellence Strategy / “Clear opposition to right-wing populism, antisemitism and remigration fantasies”

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is the largest research funding organisation and central self-governing organisation for science and the humanities in Germany. In light of recent events, it has highlighted the significance of science and the humanities in terms of an open society and liberal democracy, and has taken a firm stand against the growing right-wing populist, anti-democratic and radicalising tendencies.

DFG President Professor Dr. Katja Becker made a statement prior to the first decisions in the second competition round of the Excellence Strategy of the German federal and state governments in Bonn. On Tuesday, 30 January 2024, the Committee of Experts met in order to discuss 143 draft proposals for new Clusters of Excellence submitted by higher education institutions and HEI associations, and to decide which planned projects should enter into the next stage of competition with Clusters of Excellence already in receipt of funding. The DFG is the implementing organisation for the Cluster of Excellence funding line within the Excellence Strategy. 

Becker declared at the start of the meeting of the Committee of Experts:

“Science and the humanities have always been cosmopolitan; their cosmopolitanism has made them essential to our society and to liberal democracy. This cosmopolitanism is once again reflected in the present Excellence Strategy. Almost all of the nearly 300 researchers who have reviewed the draft proposals for new Clusters of Excellence during the past months are employed at research institutions outside Germany. Overall, experts from more than 20 countries are involved in these first important decisions. Many international researchers are in turn working within the projects already funded under the Excellence Strategy; some of them only came to Germany due to this highly successful competition. They all not only contribute to the increasing competitiveness of German research and higher education institutions in an international competition and thus to improving our innovation and prosperity – their individual backgrounds and experience also positively impact our society and coexistence in a climate of openness and tolerance.

All of this will be jeopardised in an irresponsible and intolerable manner if, as in recent weeks, right-wing populism and anti-democratic tendencies increase and despicable slogans, antisemitism and remigration fantasies gain popularity. There is no place for anything like this in our society and research communities – all of us need to take a stand against this, and science and the humanities need to oppose this as a part of society.”

The DFG President went on to say:

“Science and the humanities are demonstrating particular strength in this critical situation for our society and liberal democracy, yet they also have great responsibility: based on evidence and open discourse, they provide the knowledge that is the most effective remedy for fake news and conspiracy theories. At the same time, this knowledge paves the way for society to tackle the multiple global challenges of the present and future.

The research communities will thus actively continue to be fully committed to diversity of perspectives, knowledge-based decisions, democracy and a cosmopolitan attitude.” 

Media contact

Marco Finetti
Telephone: +49 (228) 885-2230