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Long-term promotion and development of talent

Berlin University Alliance to receive applications for junior research groups for the first time

May 26, 2021

With the recruitment drive of the Berlin University Alliance, the goal is to attract the very best scientific talent from all over the world.

With the recruitment drive of the Berlin University Alliance, the goal is to attract the very best scientific talent from all over the world.
Image Credit: Pixabay

Excellent junior researchers from across the globe are the focus of the measure to be launched by the Berlin Excellence Alliance in the coming weeks. Post-doctoral researchers can apply for up to twelve junior research groups which are to be established in the context of the joint support for junior researchers by the partner institutions. The recruitment drive is aimed at outstanding scientific talent whose research has the potential to help influence and shape the unique and vibrant research environment of the Berlin University Alliance long into the future.

For the first time, calls for proposals from the partner institutions, namely Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, explicitly also address individuals outside their own research hub. Central to this broad-based initiative is the focus on the joint promotion of talent: Excellent research needs excellent junior researchers, but also a strong commitment on the part of the participating institutions. The partner institutions have therefore set themselves the goal of working together to recruit, promote, and provide the best support to young talent – across the boundaries of disciplines and institutions. Young researchers will be given the chance at an early stage to develop their potential in the best possible way with a view to attaining a professorship or some other academic leadership position. The combination of the established format of the junior research group and the diverse academic landscape of the Berlin University Alliance offers these researchers unique development and networking opportunities.

“At the institutions of the excellence alliance, postdocs are given excellent conditions to further develop their research profile and establish themselves as independent researchers,” says Søren Salomo, spokesperson of the Steering Committee “Promoting Talent” and Professor of Technology and Innovation Management at Technische Universität Berlin. At the same time, the junior research groups support the important content-related goals of the alliance.

The future junior research group leaders will design their research project themselves and assume responsibility for leading their team over a period of four to five years. They stand to benefit in a variety of ways from the intensive cooperation of the partner institutions: These institutions are able to pool their strengths in the alliance, thereby facilitating the cooperative use of expertise, services, research infrastructures and equipment. The support structure of the alliance also includes comprehensive qualification opportunities, ranging from pre-doctoral and post-doctoral training to leadership training for professors.

Support for junior researchers is essential for the alliance as it unleashes innovative power and opens up new ways of cooperation between the partner institutions. Gender equality, diversity, and inter- and transdisciplinary approaches are of paramount importance. Cooperation with research institutions not affiliated with academia is also possible and desirable.

International orientation

Looking further into the future, the junior research groups are also hoping to further promote the global networking of the local research hub. Applications from candidates who have not yet worked in the German academic system are therefore particularly welcome.

As a city and as a hub of research, Berlin is characterized by internationality and openness. In this context, the partner institutions of the Berlin University Alliance already have very close ties with each other – and are special points of attraction for top-level researchers from all over the world. With the excellence strategy, they are breaking new ground when it comes to forward-looking, innovative research. By working on excellent research topics as well as the alliance's objectives – be it gender studies, open science, or questions about societal challenges worldwide – there are also relevant interfaces to society, politics, and economy.

Defining standards and promoting change

Post-doctoral researchers can apply for junior research groups in three areas. For the area “Research Quality and Open Science” (Objective 3: Advancing Research Quality and Value), two junior research groups with different focal points are to be set up. One group will focus on the relationship between research quality and disciplinary practice, the other on digital methods and resulting effects and interactions in terms of research quality. The groups aim to create a theoretical as well as an empirical basis and, by providing a better understanding of the multi-layered concept of research quality, they aim to help shape processes and research practices in such a way that sustainable research quality can be ensured and science can be opened up. “The Berlin University Alliance is committed to the idea of responsible, transparent, and open science. These goals extend far beyond the boundaries of disciplines, institutions, and regions,” says Professor Ulrich Dirnagl, spokesperson for Objective 3 and Director of the Department of Experimental Neurology at Charité. Against this backdrop, the calls for proposals are aimed at all disciplines.

In four junior research groups, researchers will deal with issues concerning university-related gender and diversity studies (Cross-Cutting Theme: Diversity and Gender Equality). The aim is to establish scientific foundations for an empirically-informed, diversity-sensitive, and discrimination-critical organizational development at universities. For this purpose, measures for equality and anti-discrimination that have already been established will be critically examined and evaluated with a view to potential transferability to further dimensions of social marginalization. “The goal is to develop new standards that promote cultural change toward a diversity- and gender-sensitive research and teaching environment,” explains Sabine Hark, spokesperson for the Steering Committee “Diversity and Gender Equality” and Professor of Gender Studies at Technische Universität Berlin. “In doing so, it is important to pay particular attention to the multidimensional and intersectional nature of inclusion and marginalization in scientific institutions.”

Developing excellent talent

Another call for proposals (from Objective 4: Promoting Talent) does not focus on any particular substantive question, rather it seeks primarily to find candidates worldwide with outstanding research projects that can be integrated in the context of the alliance. Each junior research group should be linked to two partner institutions of the Berlin University Alliance and/or in terms of content to the Grand Challenge Initiatives – the scientific objectives of the alliance. The junior research groups will thus build a bridge between institutions and disciplines and pave the way for even more focused and integrative support for researchers at this stage of their careers. At the same time, they will strengthen the BUA's strategic vision and research agenda going forward.

Calls for proposals for junior research groups of the Berlin University Alliance