by Silvia Mingarelli
“The dream job of the scientist is in crisis”, said the president of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Helmut Schwarz. Schwarz pointed that the 80% of German scientists who had participated in a survey of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit think about a career change because of job insecurity and poor career prospects. “And this happens in a country that can look back on a long tradition of outstanding scientists. Furthermore, political and business areas simultaneously emphasize again how much our own future is determined by science-driven areas”, Schwarz said.
German scientists are under more pressure
Today young talents are extremely mobile, they often have gainful jobs, maybe have better opportunities than ever. Probably no generation before had had such opportunities as today. But they are simultaneously under a real high pressure -a pressure that is built inside the science system itself and it discharges in unsightly forms”, said Schwarz and cited as examples the rising cases of scientific misconduct and the overloading of the investigation system.
In almost all academic public examinations, large amounts of candidates would be excepted, reported Schwarz. He referred to cases in which up to 1000 researcher reports have to be submitted in the year. “Do we still have enough time for due diligences? Will these reports, that we have been filling under such conditions, be meaningful at all? No doubt, it is the right time to relieve the system as a whole”, said Schwarz. “Otherwise it will threaten a loss of quality which could develop into a collateral damage. Not only individual funding decisions are affected, but the control of the science system as a whole”, he observed.
Schwarz welcomed the amendment of Science Contract Law and the in-process study of the Science Council about the overload of the investigation system. “It is important that we take countermeasures”, the President affirmed.
Refugees are welcome
Schwarz also spoke about the current debate on refugees and delivering support to researchers who are fleeing violence and persecution in their homeland. “Many of them have to deal with an hard situation and a lot of challenges, that the majority of people can’t imagine”, underlined Schwarz. He thanked for the support given by the politicians to the Foundation for the recently launched Philipp Schwartz initiative, in which the threatened Humboldt Foundation researchers are helped and protected in Germany. The president of the Foundation called at the same time for tolerance and openness and warned of general xenophobia that could grow after the last always hot-heated discussion about refugees”. “Foreigners in Germany, and our Humboldtians, should continue to feel safe and welcome here”.