Berlin Science Congress Part V: The Einstein Foundation’s 10th anniversary – Review and outlook with Dr Marion Müller
Von A wie Altertumswissenschaften bis Z wie Zukunft der Mobilität: Berlin zieht Wissenschaftler aus der ganzen Welt an. Mit ihren sechs Einstein-Zentren und innovativen Förderprogrammen fördert die Einstein Stiftung Berlin Wissenschaft und Forschung auf höchstem Niveau und trägt maßgeblich zur wachsenden Bedeutung der Hauptstadt im weltweiten Wissenschaftsdiskurs bei. Wir sprachen zum zehnjährigen Jubiläum der Stiftung mit der Geschäftsführerin Dr. Marion Müller über Berlin als beliebten Wissenschaftsstandort.
Dr Müller, why is Berlin so attractive as a scientific location?
I believe there is no other scientific location in Germany which is as diverse, excellent and international as Berlin. On the one hand, the city is home to major institutions and universities and, on the other, has a very rich landscape of independent research institutions which all cooperate with the universities. For these cooperations, they can also receive Einstein Foundation funding. For researchers, this density of outstanding scientific and scholarly institutions makes Berlin one of Germany’s attractive locations, if not the most attractive.
How is Berlin seen internationally?
Germany’s capital city is also – or perhaps especially – popular among scientists and scholars from countries all over the world. In international exchanges, Berlin is always among the top rankings for outstanding scientific and research locations – whether for sabbaticals, research stays or cooperations. Scientific excellence is very much alive and well in Berlin – and that’s precisely the message we want to convey.
Which areas of research stand out particularly in Berlin?
Our six Einstein Centers admirably reflect the key topics in this city – mathematics, neurosciences, catalysis, regenerative medicine, ancient studies and the digital future. These are all especially relevant beyond their importance as main thematic areas in the universities in Berlin. In future, such topics as urban mobility and population diversity will also certainly be attracting greater attention as well.
How is the Einstein Foundation seen?
As recently as last year, we were assessed by an international commission of experts, looking specifically at the Foundation’s impact in Berlin, and whether what we do is beneficial for scientists and scholars in the city. We are proud of the commission’s positive findings – just as we are of the Foundation’s achievements over the last ten years in promoting science and research.
Since 2009, €110 million from public coffers have flowed into funding top scientists and scholars and Berlin research projects. We have three Nobel Prize Laureates on our Fellows programme, while our Academic Freedom programme also supports scientists and researchers from regions of conflict – and, at present, funds a total of 29 researchers. Moreover, the Foundation has also facilitated the appointment of many internationally renowned researchers at the city’s universities. We help the city and its scientific institutions to create attractive conditions for these scientists and scholars – and in this way, ensure Berlin can maintain its position in international competition.
What has changed over the last ten years?
During this period, there has been a marked increase in the readiness of the universities and institutions to cooperate – and not only on smaller research projects. In particular, there is now a willingness to join forces to research the major key themes driving scientific discourse in Berlin. Above all, in terms of individual grants programmes, the Einstein Visiting Fellows have strengthened the lines of cooperation between Berlin and international universities over the last years. The Einstein Visiting Fellows are expected to set up a working group in Berlin and come to the city at least three to four times a year. In this way, they help to enhance the global visibility of Berlin’s universities and research facilities. The Fellows also include three Nobel Prize Laureates – which is a great compliment for Berlin, since such outstanding scientists have many offers to choose from.
You also cooperate with the city of Berlin and the Berlin Convention Office. How is that organised?
We work closely with the city and with the Berlin Convention Office in our consultations or discussions on cooperations, and also in application processes. So if delegations are visiting the city, or if it’s a question of a pitch highlighting Berlin’s outstanding range of qualities or presenting the city’s scientific and scholarly profile, then we work together especially closely. That cooperation is also part of every briefing. In particular, after a successful application we always underline that Berlin is an amazing location with attractive venues for scientific events and congresses. At that point, we also suggest contacting our expert partners in the Berlin Convention Office for further information.
Where do scientists and Berlin residents meet?
Our Meeting Einstein series tells the Berlin public who and what we are funding. Since we want to address a heterogenous audience, we look for venues with a link to the topics presented, but which are not usually associated with science and research. In addition, we organise the Einstein Meets... series, an event format held in cooperation with corporates or other Foundations. The aim here is to inspire those medium-sized businesses for science which otherwise have few points of contact, or none at all, with academic research. At the same time, such businesses are also interested in meeting top scientists to further develop products or processes.
Do you have any concrete tips for events for our readers?
We have just launched the series of events Einstein in the dome together with the Foundation Planetarium Berlin. At the Zeiss-Großplanetarium in Prenzlauer Berg, scientists on our research programmes present their research topics to the general public in Berlin. These events, which are free, are moderated by a Science Slammer. Without the help of the usual PowerPoint presentation, scientists use the planetarium dome to convey their enthusiasm for their specific areas and topics and inspire the audience.
Outlook: Where do you see the Einstein Foundation in ten years' time?
In my view, in ten years the Einstein Foundation will still be a successful partner for Berlin’s scientific community. Moreover, I hope that by then the first phase of the Berlin University Alliance can look back at receiving funding under the German Government’s Excellence Strategy and will already be in the second funding phase. I hope those things successfully initiated over the first ten years continue over the next ten years. I’d also be very glad if this resulted in a significant growth in the acquisition of private funding and in the numbers of international scientists and scholars coming to Berlin. I would like Berlin to become ‘the place to be’ for international scientists and see more lines of cooperation opening up between Berlin and the rest of the world.
Thank you! Our thanks go to Dr Marion Müller for the interview!
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