Continuity, Independence and Excellence
The German academies of sciences and humanities are both learned societies and research institutions at once. As their work is based on continuity, independence and excellence, they are able to conduct research projects requiring sustained efforts over long periods of time, such as the compilation of scientific dictionaries, encyclopaedias and critical editions of the complete works of philosophers and composers, or longitudinal studies at the interface of the natural sciences and the humanities. This work is built on the fundament of the Academies Programme; a unique model even in the international context.
The academies under the umbrella of the Union are research academies with a focus on long-term, interdisciplinary basic research in the humanities. They create a storehouse of knowledge for the future and enable other researchers and the public to make use of this knowledge.
Former German federal president Johannes Rau summed up the significance of the academies for the research landscape of today at the 250th anniversary of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities with the words: “Nowhere else places the focus on scholarly exchange quite like the Academies do. Nor is any other institution as firmly rooted in the traditions of scholarship as the Academies are. I hold both factors to be more important today than ever before, for science can only withstand and make use of increasing social and economic pressures as long as it maintains places of refuge for itself at a distance from day-to-day business.”
The Academies' Programme
The Academies' Programme is a research funding programme co-financed by the German federal government and individual federal states since 1979/80 that supports long-term research projects in the humanities and social sciences. The Academies' Programme is currently the most comprehensive humanities research programme in Germany. It is coordinated by the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities and comprises a total of 140 projects across 196 locations (as of 2019). These are comprised of 21 dictionaries, 117 editions, two basic research projects in the social and cultural sciences. The projects employ a total of 900 staff members, and receive additional support from over 100 university professors and lecturers on a voluntary basis.
The Academies’ Programme funding calls are renewed annually and have been since 2006. In order to be eligible for funding by the Academies’ Programme, projects must meet the following criteria: national significance and high academic relevance, duration of 12 to 25 years, and an annual budget of at least 120,000 Euro. The budget, acceptance of new projects and continuation of existing projects are governed by the Joint Science Conference (Gemeinsame Wissenschaftskonferenz, GWK) of the federal and state governments, whose decisions are made on the basis of the Union of German Academies’ programme and financial planning.
Other Academy Research Projects
Individual academies also carry out research projects of their own, for which they secure funding either directly from their respective home state or from third-party funds.
Prizes and Awards: Support for Early-Stage Researchers
The member academies of the German Union are increasingly championing new and innovative ways to support and promote junior researchers. Academy events like the annual Academy Open Day (Akademientag) that appeals to school pupils and introduces them to the world and work of the academies is just one example. They also provide young researchers wishing to work on interdisciplinary projects with a forum for scholarly collaboration. Furthermore, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the Leopoldina collaborated in 2000 to bring the Junge Akademie ("Young Academy") into being, the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences Arts founded the WIN-Kolleg in 2002, and the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences and the Arts founded the "Junges Kolleg" in 2006, both of which support junior researchers with the funding and development of their research. What is more, the academies also employ many junior researchers in their projects.
In order to promote early-stage researchers in the sciences and the humanities and to honour outstanding achievements or lifetime achievements in research, the Union of German Academies awards numerous prizes, medals, and scholarships. These academic awards are a high honour, irrespective of the prize money that comes with them. Award ceremonies usually take place during the public anniversary celebrations of the academies.