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Press Release No. 13 | 5 May 2021
Impulses for the Upcoming Legislative Period: Sciences and Humanities as the Key to Addressing Major Challenges

DFG paper lays out central fields of action and recommendations for setting the political course / “Strengthen Knowledge-Driven Research, Benefit from Knowledge Reservoirs”

In an impulse paper for the 20th legislative period of the German Bundestag, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has set out what it considers to be the most important areas of action and recommendations to ensure that the sciences and humanities can continue to play a key role in addressing major challenges in the future. Now also to be found on the DFG’s website and addressed to policymakers in view of the upcoming federal election campaign, “Strengthen Knowledge-Driven Research, Benefit from Knowledge Reservoirs” is the title of the paper published by Germany’s largest research funding organisation and central institution for academic self-governance.

“Political and societal challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic illustrate that in some cases, scientific solutions can be required with enormous urgency. The capacity to develop acutely needed scientific solutions depends crucially on early research funding that is not initially dedicated to a specific purpose,” the paper states in its introduction. “More than ever, therefore, forward-lookingresearch policy is needed that allows space for science-driven decisions and supports flexible action.” In terms of the strategic political decisions this will require in the up-coming legislative period, the paper provides 13 impulses covering several major fields of action.

From the DFG’s point of view, it will continue to be of central importance to strengthen knowledge-driven research in Germany in the coming years by providing appropriate funding and support. This also requires long-term investment in research – despite new debt and falling tax revenues in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic – as well a clear political commitment to continuous budget increases and financial planning security for research organisations in connection with the Pact for Research and Innovation (PFI). Knowledge-driven research should continue to be funded and promoted across its entire thematic breadth. At universities, improvement of financial framework conditions in the upcoming second funding period of the Excellence Strategy should ensure even greater global competitiveness, in particular in terms of fair participation and funding opportunities for new proposals as well as in terms of programme allowance.

Several of the DFG’s impulses focus on far-reaching processes of upheaval in the sciences and humanities and their infrastructures, in particular the digital turn. The latter is to be further advanced and utilised in the coming years, for example through the development and expansion of “digital expertise” in all subjects and disciplines and the development and strengthening of attractive digital job profiles and career paths. The field of research data continues to grow in importance, too: here the aim is to ensure long-term sustainability of research data management. To this end, the DFG considers it essential to provide long-term funding for the recently established National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI) so as to transform its current project status into a stable and long-lasting infrastructure.

The publication system is also to be made science-friendly by further expanding open access and the relevant financing structures, as well as ensuring reliable and practicable copyright legislation. From the DFG’s point of view, the national safeguarding of fundamental infrastructures for academic publications and not least the regulation of increasing global data tracking in academic research are also of increasing importance in this context. Finally, major research instrumentation and instrumentation-related research infrastructures are to be financed in line with demand, based on an increase in funding and the inclusion of operating costs in research funding.

Several impulses also apply to strengthening university medicine in Germany in order to harness the advances in medicine and translational research even more effectively. Key decisions in this regard include long-term funding of tailor-made programmes for clinician scientists and advanced clinician scientists, increased promotion of academically initiated clinical trials and the establishment of translation hubs and networks in university medicine.

Finally, in two further impulses, the DFG advocates making use of the opportunities offered by new breeding techniques for sustainable agriculture: this requires not only closer dialogue between politics, science and society in the field of plant breeding, but also the timely amendment of European legislation on genetic engineering. Meanwhile, uniform and simplified procedures for non-commercial research using genetic resources are also to be developed at European level.

In addition to setting the course for the financial, structural, technical and legal framework conditions for knowledge-driven research and research funding in Germany, one of the DFG’s key political tasks in the coming legislative period will be to secure and strengthen the basis for academic cooperation internationally. Important elements here are the development of a coherent interministerial strategy for science diplomacy, strengthening of the European Research Area (ERA) and European research partners for Germany, and consistent support for scientific freedom in opposition to national populist or authoritarian claims to power and truth worldwide.

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The paper „Erkenntnisgeleitete Forschung stärken, von Wissensspeichern profitieren“ (“Strengthen Knowledge-Driven Research, Benefit from Knowledge Reservoirs”), which is available in German only, presents each of the DFG’s impulses for the coming legislative period and can be found on the DFG’s website at: