June 21, 2024

Perilous science in Germany - Culture

Perilous science in Germany – Culture

This was the German professor: ordinary glory, independence in the small principality of the institute. This picture has changed radically over the past two decades. The German professor became more cooperative, more staff-like in habit, rarely wore a tie and was named first, and eventually became a professor more often. However, one thing remains in effect: the regulation of research and teaching in universities is still largely geared – too much – towards the distinction between professorial and non-professional.

Anyone who does not have a professorial degree in his mid-forties, but has obtained all kinds of qualifications for it by that time, remains a private lecturer at a university in this country, with low-paying teaching assignments, but without a permanent civil degree. servant position. Otherwise you have to see where it is. This has always been the case. But since the German university was developed into a collegiate university – that is, a very long time ago – it was foolish not to assign any permanent positions other than professorship to those in whose scientific career the state had already spent a lot of time. tax money. Whether you call them “lecturers” or something else.

Among the scientific staff in Germany, 92 percent of those under the age of 45 who do not have a professorship have only temporary contracts.

“Young” researchers work on their additional qualifications, i.e. new theses and findings, in books and papers; On the other hand, without safe work, they are slaughtered under the cloak of making projects to continue the science: teaching courses, organizing conferences, solving computer problems and last but not least: developing huge collections of research proposals, i.e. great-sounding plans for future projects, which, if approved, continue In financing a shaky existence like they have been for a few years. From the scientific staff in Germany, by youngest Surveys 92 percent of those under 45 have no professorial degree, only temporary contracts.

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Like I said, this is actually stupid. Not only for people, but also for the search system. But for a long time, as a candidate or even as a professor hovering around, you didn’t speak out loud about the difficult uncertainty of your career – because that was so embarrassing. Because one fears that the smell of failure and laziness will cling to the candidate. Presumably you are passionate about anything other than science, whatever happens, which is why you only work on your qualification thesis at night after work, when everything else for the project and institute is done without a murmur. Up to many years passed with it.

Amri Bahr, Christine Eichhorn, Sebastian Coppon: #IchBinHanna: Risky science in Germany. Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2022. 144 pages, 13 euros.

This silence is at least since Twitter movement Under the hashtag #IchBinHanna, which started in June of last year. One researcher wrote in one of the more than 134,000 tweets from academics showing their solidarity with the campaign or exposing their fate between lurking and sneaking.

Initiators of # I’m HanaAmri Bahr, Christine Eichhorn, and Sebastian Cobone have collected the arguments for the discussion in a book. The cry of those affected was erupted by a sneer who has since been officially deleted films From the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and in it a delightfully explanatory video, Hanna stood impartially “that no single generation holds back all positions”, as well as the opinion that the daunting predicament of a postdoc has increased the “innovative strength” of German science.

The trio of authors, themselves from the humanities and yet without permanent positions, approach the matter with an admirable mixture of rigor and polemic and identify two main causes of misery: first, defining eligible positions for a total of twelve years (twice six, before and after promotion) – temporary positions, which are misused in all kinds of other activities; And secondly, to rely on third-party funding, which means: you have to constantly beg for some special fund and “premium” with a massive supply effort, which is missing from ordinary university funding, but should not be missing.

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Since 2007, the frightening regulation of time limits on employment contracts has been regulated, which makes many highly qualified researchers in Germany sleep poorly. Scientific contract law (WissZeitVG). Bahr, Eichhorn and Coupon stress that this is not the only beginning of the problem, but that the law “represents the first (albeit unsuccessful) attempt to control a time-limited escalation regime.”

An entire generation of researchers will have to ‘over and over again make efforts to apply for funding’

When the state created a large number of new study places in the 1970s but did not appoint enough suitable personnel, officials used the excuse that as many temporary positions as possible ensured dynamism and movement. This has created a “culture of mistrust” toward the so-called youth, as the three authors write: “It is also expressed in the unsupported assumption that permanent jobs will make those involved lazy and inflexible and that the fear of only being present leads to productivity and innovative research… Why not This applies to professors, who are lifelong civil servants and who, according to this reasoning, should be especially slow and lazy, are likely to remain an unsolved mystery forever.”

Protest against the Flag Time Contracts Act is now so high that the Traffic Light Party’s coalition agreement hails the improvement. According to the ministry, the results of the assessment of the long-delayed law will now be presented in May. Let’s see what happens.

But “#IchBinHanna” also shows that the German university’s problem runs deeper and won’t go away immediately with more permanent positions (as the controversy over Berlin’s higher education law has shown): voluntary submission to so-called fair competition and an often “innovation” system It remains opaque, forcing entire generations of researchers to “over and over spend themselves when applying for funding.” The massively built, but actually poorly funded, university has made something very dubious a major profession: a “silly race against the expiration of funded time”.

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But there’s one more thing Emiri Bahr, Christine Eichhorn, and Sebastian Coppon didn’t mention: There are always two parties to subordination, even if the officials seem to have the upper hand. Anyone who flirts with science after graduation will have to closely examine what they expect from an academic career.

The fact that many more PhD theses are being written in Germany than in the past and more than elsewhere should not only tempt some, but also prevent many from allowing themselves to fall through an excessively lengthy qualification phase for temporary positions in the first place. In order for different life paths to be possible rather than being banned, the decision to stay in academia or not would have to be made a few years in advance: in the grueling hierarchical system called university, sure. But also with individuals. At the risk of appearing terribly paternalistic, and knowing too well that much also depends on unfair coincidences, one would like to call the university generation “Hanna”: yes, more permanent jobs are needed. But don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of.