The Max Planck Society has joined forces with Technische Universität München to launch an ambitious programme for junior scientists incorporating a tenure-track career system. The scheme is the first of its kind in Germany.

Under the new system the Max Planck Society, or MPG, and the university in Munich will jointly appoint outstanding young scientists – from Germany or from around the world – as Max Planck Research Group Leaders in tenure-track assistant professorships at the university. After six years and a positive evaluation, they will have the option to move on to a permanent post as an associate professor, with the prospect of becoming a full professor. Women scientists qualifying for the programme can head Minerva research groups.

Research groups

Max Planck Research Groups are internationally structured and are run for a period of five years, although they can be extended to up to nine years. While a group benefits from the infrastructure and administrative facilities of one of the 83 Max Planck Institutes it works at, it has its own funding for staff and equipment, which enables its leader to independently pursue a research project and develop his or her career.

There are two types of research groups. One is tied to the respective MPG institute in terms of the topic it addresses, and leader posts are announced by the institute itself. In the other type, the MPG announces posts for leaders of projects that they themselves have proposed, and prospective leaders can apply for an institute of their choice.

The leaders of the Max Planck Research Groups are appointed by the society’s president. More than two thirds of them reach the level of associate professor. Nearly one in every six group leaders has become an academic member of the MPG, which currently maintains 120 research groups.

In all, more than 5,500 scientists and more than 13,000 doctoral students, graduate students and visiting scientists conduct research at Max Planck institutes. Research focuses on the natural sciences, life sciences and the humanities and social sciences. While the MPG fairs favourably compared to other institutions in terms of gender representation, only 11.2% of its directors and members are women. Just over a quarter of the research groups are headed by women. To improve working conditions for women scientists, the MPG launched the Minerva programme in 2007. Its institutes hand in proposals for women candidates who are then appraised by external experts.

Synergies

Now, junior scientists will be able to benefit from synergies between the Max Planck institutes and Technische Universität München, or TUM, which is one of Germany’s leading research universities.
TUM concentrates on the engineering sciences, natural sciences, life sciences, management and education. It has around 500 professors and 36,000 students. Both institutions have a wide range of contacts and representations worldwide, and are visited by large numbers of foreign academics.