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Comparative Evaluation of the Emmy Noether Programme

The systematic funding of postdoctoral researchers is a comparatively new phenomenon in Germany. As early as 1969 – long before the introduction of Junior Professor positions – the Max Planck Society introduced Postdoc positions designed after the American system. However, it took until the mid 1990s before this funding policy was widely adopted by most of the important funding agencies.

Programmes intended for funding young and outstanding research group leaders respond to one of the central criticisms of the German science system: a very long period of research characterized by a strong dependency on professors. The programmes intend to create working conditions enabling young scientists to embark on independent research at a much earlier time. Policies supporting the systematic funding of excellent Postdocs, including the creation of opportunities for alternative academic career paths instead of the classic career routes in University systems, appear to establish themselves as a permanent component in the funding system.

One of the most prestigious young research group leader programmes is the Emmy Noether Programme of the German Research Foundation (DFG). Since its initiation, the programme successfully funded about 4000 young researchers. The aim of the iFQ-study is to analyse the effects of the mentioned funding policy by conducting a comparative programme evaluation and explore the specific difficulties and problems of externally funded Postdocs. We used a mixed-method-design combining a traditional quantitative survey with qualitative methods (problem focused interviews, document analyses) and bibliometric techniques (analyses of publications and citations).

The online survey of funded young research group leaders and the rejected applicants, financed by the DFG (through the Emmy Noether programme), Volkswagen Foundation, Helmholtz Association and Max Planck Society, was carried out from October 2006 to July 2007. Qualitative interviews were conducted with a sample of funded Emmy Noether-Grantees. Bibliometric analyses focused primarily on four scientific fields (Medicine, Biology, Physics and Chemistry).

The first report, primarily focusing on the evaluation of the Emmy Noether-Programme was published in May 2008 (download executive summary in english). Two reports will be published in 2009, the first presenting the results of the comparative programme analysis while the second will detail the results of the bibliometric analysis.

Duration: January 2006 – July 2009
Co-operation partners: Prof. Dr. Meuser (TU Dortmund), Dr. M. Winterhager (IWT Univ. Bielefeld)
Funding: DFG
Supplementary: WZB Berlin and Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft
Contact person: Dr. Nathalie Huber
Detailed information: DFG-Infobrief 2/2008