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Press Release No. 11 | 2 April 2009
Jutta Allmendinger Wins 2009 Communicator Award

Social scientist from Berlin receives award for outstanding communication of her research on pressing social issues to the public

The social scientist Jutta Allmendinger is the winner of this year's Communicator Award, conferred by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany. Allmendinger is a professor at the Humboldt University (HU) in Berlin and the current President of the Social Science Research Centre Berlin (WZB). She has been selected to receive this award in recognition of her outstanding ability to raise public awareness of her research work on pressing topics in the fields of social, educational and labour market policy.

Jutta Allmendinger is the first female scientist to receive the Communicator Award, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. In honour of the high public profile achieved by her multifaceted work, this is the first time the award has been granted for the communication of social scientific topics and research findings to the broader public.

The Communicator Award - Science Award of the Donor's Association is accompanied by prize money of EUR50,000 and is the highest distinction for the communication of research findings to the general public in Germany. Since the year 2000, the DFG and the Donors' Association have been granting this award to scientists and researchers who have managed to present their specialist subject or their research findings to the general public in an especially versatile, original or creative manner and who have rendered outstanding services to the increasingly important dialogue between the scientific community and the public.

The winners are selected by an award panel consisting of science journalists and experts from the fields of communications and public relations. This year, on the award's tenth anniversary, the panel had to choose from among a large number of candidates of outstanding quality and professionalism. A total of 45 researchers working in all scientific disciplines had either put themselves forward or been nominated for the award. Twelve of the candidates were short-listed, with Jutta Allmendinger being chosen as the ultimate winner.

According to the award panel for the Communicator Award, Professor Allmendinger, a 52 year-old professor of sociology, has an exceptional talent for combining high scientific quality with sustainable practical and political implementation and effective public presentation. Ever since she received her doctorate from Harvard University two decades ago, Allmendinger's research interests have focused on topics of exceptional social relevance. Her best-known work is on equal opportunities between men and women and is based on an examination of the pension system and the financial inequality of the sexes, which she carried out during her Habilitation at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and at the Free University in Berlin, and as a professor at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. In her educational research, undertaken before the publication of the PISA studies, Allmendinger revealed the close relationship that exists between education and social status in Germany and examined the variety of effects of poor education on health, life expectancy and political participation. The term Bildungsarmut (educational poverty), which she was partially responsible for coining, has long since become a buzzword in political and social discourse. Finally, Allmendinger's studies on labour market policy, which she conducted while she was the Director of the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), are closely related to her work on equal opportunities and educational poverty.

The results of these studies have put Jutta Allmendinger in the public limelight in many different ways for more than a decade, the best example being her series of articles entitled Frauen auf dem Sprung - Männer unter Druck? (Women On the Up and Up - Men Under Pressure), published in the women's magazine Brigitte in 2008. These articles allowed Allmendinger's latest research findings on the relationship between gender, life plan and life history to reach and to be discussed literally "in series" by millions of readers. Her column in Handelsblatt, a German economic newspaper, which she has been writing for since 2007, a wealth of articles in other national newspapers, and regular appearances on radio and television programmes demonstrate Jutta Allmendinger's commitment to the media and her outstanding talent for presenting scientific issues in a way that the general public can relate to and understand. The award panel was equally impressed by Professor Allmendinger's extensive lecturing work in recent years, with which she has presented her research findings to political parties - regardless of political orientation - as well as to companies and, for example, at the German Catholic Church Congress and the German Protestant Church Congress. Last but not least, by attending parliamentary committee hearings, by contributing to expert reports and by her involvement in the German Social Advisory Council, Professor Allmendinger actively communicates sociological research findings at the interface between science, politics and application.

In all of her articles and lectures, she demonstrates great clarity of thought and a willingness to express uncomfortable truths and get to the point. An escape-proof prison: Learn, or stay poor and From the maid to the market: Despite undeniable progress, gender equality remains merely a moot concept: these are just two of the many incisive titles carried by her articles.

This "courage to express uncomfortable truths" was also highlighted by Professor Matthias Kleiner, President of the DFG, following the award panel's decision on this year's winner of the award. "The winner of the award Jutta Allmendinger is a charismatic scientist and an outstanding scientific organiser and communicator," said Kleiner. For Dr. Arend Oetker, President of the Donors' Association, the fact that Professor Allmendinger is the first female social scientist to receive the Communicator Award is "an important signal to the scientific community". "For the social sciences in Germany, the dialogue between politics and society is essential, especially in these difficult times. This is a field in which Jutta Allmendinger has been an expert for many years," explained Oetker.

Jutta Allmendinger is the tenth person from the German scientific community to receive the Communicator Award. Previous winners have included the astrophysicist Harald Lesch, the Catholic theologian Hubert Wolf, the palaeobiologist Friedemann Schrenk, who has done extensive research on Africa, and the Working Group on Glaciology at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, the only research team to receive the award. Last year the award was conferred upon the mathematician Günter M. Ziegler.

This year's Communicator Award will be presented on 23 June during the Summer of Science festival in Saarbrücken by the presidents of the DFG and the Donors' Association, Professor Matthias Kleiner and Dr. Arend Oetker. The prize money is donated by the Donors' Association, which has a membership of more than 3,000 companies and private individuals who are committed to the promotion of science and its transmission to the broader public. In addition to the prize money, Jutta Allmendinger will also be presented with a hologram representing the Communicator Award. The hologram, created by the Cologne artist Michael Bleyenberg, underlines the significance of transparency in science and expresses the importance of looking at things "in the right light". Just like the hologram, it is only then that science can truly shine.

Further Information

Further information about the Communicator Award can be found at:

Jutta Allmendinger's vita is available at:

A high-resolution photograph is available for download from:

For further information from the DFG, please contact:

  • Dr. Eva-Maria Streier,
    Director of Press and Public Relations,
    Tel. +49 228 885-2250,

Contact at the Donors' Association:

  • Dr. Frank Stäudner,
    Communications and Public Relations,
    Tel. +49 201 8401-158,