Careers in Marine Science: Fishing for Money--Marine Science Funding in Germany (and Europe)


Much like in the United States, funding for basic marine research in Germany generally comes from the government, e.g., the German Science Foundation ( Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; DFG) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research ( Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung; BMBF), with only a few private corporations, foundations, and organizations sponsoring preferably applied marine research. Marine research is conducted at universities and a host of research laboratories, with field programs in all oceans. Other important institutions for marine research are the Federal Research Centre for Fisheries (Bundesforschungsanstalt für Fischerei) of the German Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food, and Agriculture and the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency of Germany (Bundesamt für Seeschiffahrt und Hydrographie), an agency of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building, and Housing. Most of these marine research institutes are located in one of the north German neighboring Länder of Niedersachsen, Bremen, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

The catalog of scholarships, stipends, and grants available to Ph.D. candidates, postdocs, 'habilitands,' and young scientists for conducting independent research projects is quite attractive and should be inviting a variety of proposals. Because the ocean realm still harbors so many mysteries, we must expect, of course, that with limited budgets careful thematic prioritization is undertaken for each funding cycle. As Next Wave has reported, the DFG, for example, in its recent "Denkschrift," has defined five scientific programs for the next decade: climate variability, biogeochemical cycles and biodiversity, shelf systems: variability and prediction, geological boundary conditions for the budgets of energy and matter in the ocean, and framework for marine research.

As the second principal national funding agency in Germany, the BMBF calls its marine research program "Marine and Polar Research, Marine Technology." The level of funding is substantial, and about 10% of the global budget for marine science issued from the European Union--which of course is distributed among partnerships formed from subsets of the E.U.'s 15+ member (and associated) states. BMBF also funds exchange of students and scientists.

A brief review of the sequence of European Framework Programs (FPs) illustrates how priorities have fluctuated over the past decades. In Europe, marine scientists should not take it for granted that marine science and technology is a separate item that can easily be identified in the funding frameworks. Although this was still the case from FP2 to FP4, with budgets increasing from 54 MEuro in MAST1 (FP2) to 118 MEuro in MAST2 (FP3) and 228 MEuro in MAST3 (FP4, 1994-98), in the ongoing Fifth Framework Program (FP5, 1998-2002), there has been a swerve in the suite of four Thematic Programs that reflects the increased interest in sustainability, environmental quality, and consideration of socioeconomic issues, with no specific program for marine science. Instead, FP5 has components of pertinent marine research topics in three of the four Thematic Programs (see table).

Marine Research Niches in the Fifth Framework Program of the European Union

FP5 Thematic Program

(Global Budget in MEuro, all Key Actions)

Key Action relating to Marine Research

Related Research Programs under FP4

(MAST 3)

I. Improving the quality of life and management of living resources

(2413 MEuro)

Sustainable agriculture, fisheries, and forestry and integrated development of rural areas including mountain areas (520 MEuro)

Agriculture & Fisheries

II. Promoting Competitive and Sustainable Growth

(2705 Meuro)

Land transport and marine technologies


III. Energy, environment, and sustainable development

(2125 MEuro)

Global change, climate, and biodiversity

Sustainable marine ecosystems (1999-2000: 69 MEuro,

2001-02: 92 MEuro)

Environment and Climate

Marine Science and Technologies (MAST 3)

In the European Community Proposal for the 6th Framework Program (February 2001), "A Marine Science Plan for Europe" (FP6, 2002-06), there is again no visible and coherent thematic area for marine science and technology. The European Federation of Marine Science and Technology Societies, of which the German Society for Marine Research ( Deutsche Gesellschaft für Meeresforschung) is a member, is submitting a request for a revision to the Commission of the EC before the proposal is to be considered by the European Parliament and Council.

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