Complexity isn’t a vice!

Complexity isn’t a vice!

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!”

Advertisements
Are “excellence”-based funding schemes really working?

Are “excellence”-based funding schemes really working?

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?”

New German federal program funds ONLY 1,000 tenure track professorships

New German federal program funds ONLY 1,000 tenure track professorships

Summary

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”

How the evaluation of one Max Planck Institute ended up in insults (part 3)

How the evaluation of one Max Planck Institute ended up in insults (part 3)

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)”

The story of an anonymous letter important for German academia

The story of an anonymous letter important for German academia

Summary

At the beginning of the year, an anonymous written by a couple of early career researchers at Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry (MPI-bpc)  was sent to the Max Planck Society (MPG) president and the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The letter summarized the local issues and framed them into the known problems in the German academic system. The MPG management attacked the letter by steering the discussion towards the quality of its authors. Moreover, early career researchers were intimidated to avoid future similar letters. Here I frame the current events at MPI-bpc within the national fight to change the German academic system and answer the question of why these events are interesting for all MPIs and academics working or planning to work in Germany. Continue reading “The story of an anonymous letter important for German academia”

How the evaluation of one Max Planck Institute ended up in insults (part 2)

How the evaluation of one Max Planck Institute ended up in insults (part 2)

Summary

In January 2016, a couple of early career scientists from Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry (MPI-bpc) wrote an anonymous letter to the Max Planck Society (MPG) president, Martin Stratmann. A copy was sent to the German Minister of Education and Research, Johanna Wanka. Some people were upset with the letter while others called their authors “heroes”. I received an arguably insulting email accusing me that I was the author of the anonymous letter. This made me think about the bullying culture in academia, especially in strongly hierarchical and competitive organizations such as the MPG. This is the second out of a series of blog entries analysing the current events at MPI for Biophysical Chemistry (MPI-bpc). Continue reading “How the evaluation of one Max Planck Institute ended up in insults (part 2)”

How the evaluation of one Max Planck Institute ended up in insults (part 1)

How the evaluation of one Max Planck Institute ended up in insults (part 1)

Summary

There was a scientific advisory board (SAB) evaluation at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Biophysical Chemistry in December. Some early career scientists were not satisfied with how the evaluation proceeded. Hence, in early January 2016, they wrote an anonymous letter to the Max Planck Society (MPG) president, Martin Stratmann. A copy was sent to the German Minister of Education and Research, Johanna Wanka. Many people were upset with the letter. I received an arguably insulting email accusing me that I was the author of the anonymous letter. This made me start investigating what happened during and after the SAB. This is the first out of a series of blog entries analysing the current events at MPI for Biophysical Chemistry (MPI-bpc). Continue reading “How the evaluation of one Max Planck Institute ended up in insults (part 1)”

Let the leaks begin!

Let the leaks begin!

Before he left office in 2014, the former Max Planck Society (MPG) president, Prof. Peter Gruss, gave a speech in the Scientific Council that contained the following statement:

“We must also recruit junior scientists more intensively. That means reasonable pay, promotion and mentoring! Your institutes do not face hardship. Junior scientists […] do not mean cheap labour. And we are no longer living in the 1950s where a Director could rule like a little king. Young people are in demand worldwide and also have very good networks. Not just other Max Planck institutes, but half of the world finds out how you treat doctoral students or post-docs within a few hours via Twitter or Facebook. But it is not just about coverage in the media channels. Appropriate and competitive support of junior scientists means every Director bearing responsibility and ensuring promotion. You are all aware of this; but the small numbers of you who do not put it into practice are jeopardizing the reputation of the MPG!” Continue reading “Let the leaks begin!”