Where is Science Policy Headed in Germany Post Election?

A CDU campaign poster of Angela Merkel near Alexanderplatz in Berlin. Photo taken September 23, 2013.

Whether Germans view her as the grand “Mutti” or the physicist-Chancellor, biographers of Angela Merkel will undoubtedly label her as contemporary Europe’s most pragmatic political negotiator.

Some commentators have speculated that Merkel’s ability to be pragmatic on issues such as the European debt crisis or the adoption of an anti-nuclear energy policy under Energiewende stems from leadership training she garnered during her years working in science. Others have attributed Merkel’s diplomacy skills to those she may have learned during her atypical upbringing in the GDR as the daughter of a Protestant pastor.

Whatever the biographical speculation, there were high hopes during Merkel’s first term that her background as a scientist would push her to make bold decisions to expand already flourishing German research institutions. As Ulf von Rauchhaupt, science editor at Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, told Seed Magazine in an article published January 4, 2007:

“They’re all impressed that a scientist, a real scientist who really did scientific work and didn’t just get a degree and move on, finally made it to the top of the political ladder.”

How has Merkel’s leadership fared on science policy?

Jakob Edler was the head of the department of innovation systems and policy at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI) in Germany. Now director of the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research at the University of Manchester, Edler told the Guardian earlier this month that, “all the major incentives in universities are pushing towards excellence in research rather than in teaching. All of those developments are instrumental in undermining the highly differentiated educational system in Germany.”

He added that the German government’s internationalization strategies for research and innovation were half-baked.

Big changes are often countered by loud dissent. The articles linked below (four of which were published this month) share a spectrum of public opinion and offer a glimpse into how Merkel’s policies might evolve in her third term as Chancellor.

The Rundown:

Angela Merkel, a physical chemist-turned-G8 leader, is putting science on the European and global agenda: Seed Magazine, January 2007

The Greening of Angela Merkel: Pacific Standard, August 2011

More foreign skilled workers thanks to Blue Card: Deutsche Welle, November 2012

Berlin Aims to Create Research Powerhouse: Nature News, November 2012

Internet Access Declared a Basic Right in Germany: Deutsche Welle, January 2012

PM set to visit Germany, ink pack on science, tech, and energy: First Post., April 2013

Merkel gets climate change, but gets it wrong: Green Alliance Blog, July 2013

Science policy had a dangerously low profile in the German election: The Guardian, September 2013

Germany Hits Science High, But election prompts fears that budgetary pressures may sap strong investment: Nature News, September 2013

Wish Lists in Germany: Inside Higher Ed, September 2013

Lab Equality: Sciences Struggle to Attract Young Women: Der Spiegel, September 2013

Article and photo by Claudia Adrien

The article originally appeared September 30, 2014 at berlinSCI.com.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.