Bullish on foreigners. Minister Bulmahn wants to infuse fresh blood into German science.

Germany to Halt Brain Drain

The German government has announced an $82 million package of measures aimed at beefing up its scientific talent. Through new programs at the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Academic Exchange Service Agency (DAAD), the government hopes to both encourage top scientists to visit and prevent young talent from leaving. "We want to stop the brain drain and instead start up a brain gain," says Germany's research minister Edelgard Bulmahn.

Bulmahn and others in Germany's science establishment have reason for angst. Several German scientists have won recent Nobel Prizes for research done in U.S. labs, including physicist Horst Störmer in 1998 and cell biologist Günter Blobel in 1999. More alarming, a recent study found that about 14% of German science students land graduate or postdoc positions in the United States, and up to a third of them don't return.

Humboldt is using its share of extra funding--$46 million over the next 3 years--to launch new programs such as the Wolfgang-Paul awards. This program aims to attract between 15 and 20 top-notch scientists to Germany each year by offering grants of as much as $2 million over 3 years. While the awards are aimed mainly at non-German scientists, native Germans who have worked abroad for more than 5 years are eligible. In another program, Cosmos, Humboldt will give 3-year grants of up to $1.1 million to young scientists. "We want to attract some of the world's best scientists to Germany," says Humboldt president Wolfgang Frühwald.

The other beneficiary of the new funds, the DAAD, will get about $34 million over 3 years to jump-start three new programs. One, called Innovatec, will sponsor about 50 guest scientists annually--open to any professors at all levels outside Germany--to work at German universities. Another program will help fund exchanges of between 500 and 1000 graduate students and advanced undergrads a year.

Bulmahn thinks these initiatives, along with a wave of retirements at universities expected over the next 5 years, will open up new opportunities for scientists. As she told expatriated German scientists during a visit to Silicon Valley and Stanford University in January, "it would be great to see you again in Germany."

Relates sites
The German Ministry of Education and Science
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
The Academic Exchange Service Agency