Key Indicators for Publicly Funded
Research in Germany
Select a federal state and then a university
The presidents of the DFG and the German Rectors’ Conference explain why the analyses and conclusions in the Funding Atlas 2018 are important not just to individual research institutions, but to German research policy as a whole.
Since it was first published in 1997, the Funding Atlas produced by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has proved very popular – increasingly so with each three-yearly report – at universities and research institutions, in higher education and research policy, and also outside the research system, in the media and among the general public. This level of interest is very encouraging, as it affirms our aim of compiling and analysing “key indicators relating to publicly funded research in Germany” to an extent not previously attempted. This eighth edition of the DFG Funding Atlas reflects the desire to provide information, in differentiated form, about where in Germany research is being supported by competitively acquired funding and thus crucially impacting on the research profile of universities, non-university institutions, towns, cities and regions.
As in every edition, special emphasis is given to specially chosen thematic questions. While the Funding Atlas 2012 focused on equal opportunity and the last edition on the Excellence Initiative, this Funding Atlas focuses attention on key aspects of international funding and research activity with a special chapter on “Research Funding in a European context and worldwide”, with emphasis on the European Research Area. The analyses reveal that Germany plays an important role in this area and is becoming increasingly attractive to leading international researchers. Another special chapter is devoted to in-depth analysis of the DFG’s Collaborative Research Centres programme. In the 50 years since it was introduced, this programme has made and continues to make an important contribution to the profiling of individual universities.
A key element of the DFG Funding Atlas is the tables that show universities in rank order. Special attention is generally given to data about the funding volume obtained from the DFG in a given period. For most universities there have been no changes, or only slight changes, in ranking position since the last edition of the DFG Funding Atlas. Where changes have occurred, these are mostly due to funding acquired for institutional strategies as part of the Excellence Initiative. At a few locations this expired during the reporting period of 2014 to 2016, while in others it has been restarted. Since an institutional strategy accounts for an average of around €15 million per year, its discontinuation may affect an institution’s place in the ranking.
It was shown in the Funding Atlas 2012 that apart from a few exceptions, the ranking positions of the universities with regard to DFG funding volume have changed little from one edition to the next over the last 20 years. In 2015 a special analysis revealed that the subject funding profiles of the surveyed universities were also mostly very stable. In other words, there are few institutions that are focusing their third-party funding profile on an ever smaller number of ‘strong’ subject areas or, conversely, seeking to obtain third-party funding for an ever larger number of subject areas in an effort to diversify.
With respect to the discussion in the German research community in recent years regarding the competitiveness of German universities – including competition between locations for international visibility, additional financial resources, highly motivated students and highly qualified research staff – this stability in the figures is itself an indicator of quality. It shows that in the fields of research where universities perform well and are very successful at acquiring third-party funding, they have usually developed these strengths over a long period of time and are continually refining them. Success in third-party funding acquisition does not follow short-term trends and also appears to be largely immune to outside attempts to influence research. For example, there is no evidence that smaller universities are less successful per se at competing for third-party funding than larger ones, nor does the data point to major disciplines pushing out smaller ones.
By highlighting relationships and developments such as these, the reporting system of the DFG Funding Atlas is also intended to help refocus discussion of third-party funding-based statistics on the quality dimension. In the 1980s, the German Council of Science and Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat, WR), the West German Rectors’ Conference and various other research policy organisations called for improved documentation and statistical surveys of the third-party funding obtained by Germany’s universities. The WR explained its viewpoint as follows: “Third-party funding has always been a key element of quality assurance in university research because it must be competitively applied for.” (WR 1982, p. 5.) Today, against the background of many years of complex engagement with statistics on third-party funding, there is little to add; merely that third-party funding is not just an ‘asset’ in a monetary sense. It is a mark of research quality recognised by reviewers in individual funding proposals. In aggregate, it makes this quality visible beyond the boundaries of the individual discipline and institution.
For this edition of the DFG Funding Atlas, as with previous editions, we hope that the information presented here, supplemented by extensive additional material online, will stimulate wide-ranging discussion and provide a sound basis for decision-making. We would like to thank all those individuals who have contributed to this work in many different ways.
|Professor Dr. Peter Strohschneider||Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. Horst Hippler|
|President of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft||President of the German Rectors’ Conference|