Last week was a good week for German science. One of the two physics laureates and the only laureate in Chemistry are Germans who have developed their ideas in German universities and research institutes.
This does not mean that German science should rest on their laurels, there are some issues that are holding back German universities and research institutes from reaching their full potential. Some of them are discussed here.
One feature of the German academic system is that there seems to be a two-layer system with the Max Planck Society carrying out most of the world-class research and the Universities taking responsibility for the teaching. The other feature, shared by most continental European countries, is that there is a flat field in which universities are provided with funds according to the size of the student population (and the specific policies of the local state). This dependency from the Federal and state administration makes change more difficult. That coupled with a lack of incentives for Universities to produce outstanding research (since the state will finance them the same regardless) means that some good researchers move to the Max Plancks (or abroad) leaving the university system without some good researchers that could also teach.
One issue not mentioned in the article though is the difficulty for young (or not so young) researchers to obtain more than temporal contracts. Whereas this seems to be a problem in most countries, in Germany this is better and worse. It is worse because there are not that many positions for a postdoc asides from becoming a full professor, leaving many of us without hope to have an academic career. It is also better because in Germany, people with a PhD are less likely to be discriminated for the fact of having a doctorate. In fact many companies are happy to hire PhDs for more than their R&D departments.
UPDATE: Just one interesting fact that I read today in the paper about the procedence of the nobel laureates from 1951 to 2006: 56% american, 13.2% British, 8.7% German, 3.38% Russian and 2.8% French
Tuesday 16 October
We were pleased in Brazil with the 2007 physics Nobel prize, as there was a Brazilian scientist working with Albert Fert, Mário Norberto Baibich…
It reminds us a bit of the case of Cesar Lattes, but not much. :)
Monday 29 October
You are absolutely right. It is notorious for the difficulty of finding a permanent academic jobs for young people in Germany. However, I found that opposite is also true. Researchers can not find tenure in Max-Planck, so they move to Universities.
Tuesday, 13 Nov 2007
It is a normal trend. Besides, there are many more university departments and institutes than there are Max Plancks…