Summary and context
In February, Spiegel Online brought up the topic of bullying and sexual harassment at a Max Planck Institute (MPI) in Bavaria. Since then, extensive press coverage discussed the deeds of the female director at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA). Initially, the press office of the Max Planck Society (MPG) through their spokesperson – Dr. Christina Beck – stated that they heard about the problems at the MPA only in 2016. I proved otherwise: There were documents that went through Dr. Beck’s hands that showed problems at the institute since at least 2013. The president of the MPG – Martin Stratmann – admitted in an interview to FAZ that the internal complaint mechanisms are not ideal but claimed a clear responsibility structure. I agree with the first part, but I will argue that the responsibility structure is far from clear. In addition, academic bullies thrive enabled by bystanders. I describe here how “Nils” – mentioned in the first BuzzFeed coverage – went through all the complaint avenues inside the MPG. Everyone, not only the general administration (GA) of the MPG, knew about what was happening to him.
Continue reading “Bystanders enable academic bullies: The Max Planck Society as a case study”
In February, a report in Der Spiegel spoke about bullying and sexual harassment at a Max Planck Institute in Bavaria. The moment I read it, I knew who the academic bully was because each bully has their own brand of bullying. I knew of a case from 2014 that I took through all the mediation levels mentioned in the statutes of the Max Planck Society (MPG). The mediation failed in 2014; the case was reported in BuzzFeed in 2018 as “Nils”. The press office of the MPG was quick to convince Nature News that the issues are going to a head, before actually seeing the results of the survey conducted at the institute. The lack of remorse and failure in taking responsibility disappointed the people at the institute: The MPG continuously stated that the first time they heard about these cases was 2016. As a consequence, the survey results were leaked to BuzzFeed.
Continue reading “Is the conversation on academic bullies over now? We are just getting started”
Since February this year, the cases of bullying and harassment at Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) are openly discussed in the press (Spiegel, BuzzFeed, Nature News and again BuzzFeed). The Max Planck Society (MPG) claims that they acted as fast as they had learned about the situation. The MPG claims, through their head of communications, Dr. Christina Beck, that they did not know about the situation before 2016. However, problems at the MPA were previously reported to the MPG since 2013 in documents that Christina Beck saw as well.
Continue reading “The Max Planck Society knew about the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics since at least 2013. They did nothing”
Oftentimes I am asked for 500-word explanations of political issues. I’d rather use 500 words to explain why I won’t do it. Continue reading “Complexity isn’t a vice!”
Germany’s Excellence Strategy programs
Over the last months, the GWK (the Joint Research Conference) – an agency in which the federal government and the state governments (die Länder) make decisions on federal research programs – worked on launching the Excellence Strategy meant to boost Germany’s research profile. The programs need to be approved by Angela Merkel’s cabinet on June 16th. Today, a debate on this topic will take place in the German Lower House of Representatives (Bundestag). Continue reading “Are “excellence”-based funding schemes really working?”
On the 20th of May the Joint Research Conference (GWK) presented their new program, the Nachwuchspakt, through which one billion EUR will be used to create 1,000 tenure track positions over the next 15 years. German academics rejoiced. However, a closer look at the numbers in the German academic system shows that the new program will make only a marginal contribution towards solving the problems junior academics face. Junior academics need to directly address politicians with their opinions on this maintenance of the status quo. Continue reading “New German federal program funds ONLY 1,000 tenure track professorships”
Summary and background
The Max Planck Society’s (MPG) institutes (MPIs) are evaluated every two to three years in terms of research output and personnel management by a Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). After such an evaluation at the MPI for Biophysical Chemistry (MPI-bpc), a couple of junior researchers wrote a letter addressed to the MPG president and the Education and Research Ministry. The letter summarized the issues discussed during the evaluation. Previously, I summarized the events surrounding the letter and argued that the letter – in particular, its controversial style – is a product of a culture in which the management suppresses opinions through bullying. However, the style of the letter is not a reason to neglect the issues brought forward, as they are characteristic of German academia. Continue reading “How the evaluation of one Max Planck Institute ended up in insults (part 3)”