“Ask the BUA!“
At the first panel discussion of the Berlin University Alliance (BUA), all members of the partner institutions were able to learn a great deal about the Excellence alliance.
Jan 22, 2021
What benefits does the BUA offer doctoral candidates? Are joint appointments planned for professors? Are international guest students also invited to participate in the formats? How are questions of equality being integrated? How does the BUA plan to increase its external visibility? There was great interest in the panel discussion “Ask the BUA!” Around 400 participants dialed in to the online event, which took place in the middle of January, to engage in conversation with leading figures from the partner institutions, researchers, and experts from the various areas of focus of the BUA.
“If the Berlin University Alliance hadn’t been around during pandemic times, we would have had to establish such an alliance,” explained Professor Heyo K. Kroemer, chief executive officer of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin at the panel discussion. “The pandemic has shown us that we’re very much limited by our individual approaches to problem-solving when it comes to tackling global challenges and only together can we find solutions that are successful. The alliance offers great potential in this regard.” Here he was alluding to the integrated research environment which the BUA would like to create in Berlin. Going forward, cooperative research initiatives should be easier and faster to set up and closer ties and cooperation between the partners should be further developed. Also emphasized by Professor Günter M. Ziegler, president of Freie Universität Berlin, was the desire to integrate the many non-university research institutions in Berlin as well as international partners.
Ideas for research questions should not come from the universities alone, explained Professor Sabine Kunst, president of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and spokesperson of the BUA. Rather, the alliance is looking forward to input from society, which it will then adopt through new formats of science communication. The challenges associated with this joint effort were also addressed. Professor Christian Thomsen, president of Technische Universität Berlin, named, for example, the potential conflict between the autonomy of the participating institutions on the one hand and the desire to develop joint competencies on the other: “Our aim is acting together under the banner of the BUA. Key to this, however, is trying to strike the right balance.”
“We've submitted a proposal of excellence. Now all we need to do is adapt it to reality.” Sabine Kunst, president of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and spokesperson of the BUA
Journalist Julia Vismann from rbb was the moderator for the panel discussion and the open Q&A that followed. She took up the questions of the participants, which highlighted the variety of topics in the BUA as well as the need for direct exchange. Some of the main topics included sustainability, diversity and equality of opportunity, internationalization, support for junior researchers, and networks. The structural implementation of the alliance in the individual institutions was also addressed as was potential participation with respect to the bottom-up principle.
In the second part of the event, the participants had the opportunity to explore specific questions in designated dialog groups held in parallel. The groups focused on the objectives and cross-cutting themes of the alliance. Here, too, the interest was great once all participants had found their way into the desired digital room. Researchers and experts from the individual disciplines presented their fields of activity and planned projects and responded to specific questions. Topics discussed included, among others, opportunities for active participation, the alliance’s development, as well as structural processes and communication of the BUA. Many interested participants used the opportunity to get to know the BUA contacts in person and put a face to a name.
The event demonstrated that there is great demand for participation in the alliance and that there are many ideas out there. There is a desire for more internal communication and direct contacts and also the hope for quick and simple cooperation opportunities. However, there was also a necessity to explain in detail what the BUA is all about and what benefits it brings. That’s why it’s important to keep the conversation going. Because the Berlin Excellence Alliance is only as good as the ideas, commitment, and exchange of the researchers, teachers, students, and employees involved. “The partner institutions are evolving together as we speak and are developing a common working culture,” explained Sabine Kunst. “We've submitted a proposal of excellence. Now all we need to do is adapt it to reality.”