Institutions and locations of scientific excellence

July 11, 2003

The largest proportion of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) grant approvals go to the regions of Berlin and Munich. In the three years from 1999 to 2001 Berlin universities and non-university institutions attracted a total of 307 million Euros in grants from the DFG and 243 million Euros were poured into the city of Munich. If the districts of Potsdam and Potsdam-Mittelmark and the region of Munich are taken into consideration too, these figures amount to 36 million Euros for the Berlin region and 27 million Euros for Munich. Included within these figures is a much higher proportion of approvals for the humanities and social sciences in Berlin, whereas the Munich region displays a much greater emphasis in the areas of biology and medicine.

These are just two particularly noticeable findings contained in the new ranking of research funding presented today by the DFG. This is the third such report on the distribution of research grants to universities and non-university institutions, following previous reports in 1997 and 2000. In comparison to the previous two editions, the scope which is reported on has been significantly expanded, as is indicated by the report's subtitle: Institutions - Regions - Networks. The statements broken down by subject area on DFG funding awards by university and non-university research institutions continue to form the core focus of the report.

Over and above this, statements are made on the following:This significant extension of the scope of the report was made possible through the support of the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany (Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft), which provided funding for the project and which convened a scientific advisory committee. Furthermore, a media partnership was agreed with the German weekly newspaper "Die Zeit".

Alongside Berlin and Munich the region of Aachen - Bonn - Cologne again stood out as being well funded. A total of 291 million Euros in funding was granted to universities and non-university institutions in these three cities. The southern German regions of Mannheim - Heidelberg - Karlsruhe and Stuttgart/Tübingen brought in 231 and 221 million Euros respectively. The region of Saxony, including, most notably, the Technical Universities in Chemnitz, Freiberg and Dresden, attracted a total of 129 million Euros in DFG grant approvals.

Looking at the analyses broken down by the area of science, the highest quantity of funding (69 million Euros) in humanities and social sciences went to Berlin, which was well ahead of Munich, Tübingen and Frankfurt am Main, which received 28 million Euros each. Including Potsdam, the Berlin region attains a total of 83 million Euros. Berlin has not only its large universities to thank for this high rank in the humanities and social sciences, but also the Humanities Research Centres (Geisteswissenschaftlichen Zentren (GWZ)) located in Berlin and funded by the DFG as well as, for instance, the German Institute for Economic Research (Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung), the Social Science Research Center (Wissenschaftszentrum für Sozialforschung), the Max Planck Institute for Human Development (Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung) and the German Archaeological Institute (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut).

In the area of biology and medicine it is again the regions of Berlin and Munich, as well as Heidelberg, Würzburg, Göttingen and Hamburg, which stand out.

In the natural sciences there is a particular focus, besides Berlin and Munich, primarily in the regions of Karlsruhe, Heidelberg, Bonn and Kiel. The final area mentioned owes its position here, to a large extent, to the non-university research institutions such as the GEOMAR Research Center for Marine Geosciences (GEOMAR-Forschungszentrum für Marine Geowissenschaften), as well as the Institute for Marine Research (Institut für Meereskunde).

Aachen is the most strongly DFG-funded region in engineering. Again, this may be explained by the non-university institutions located there, which are "networked" to the Aachen University of Technology (RWTH Aachen) in a multitude of ways. Other regions, which receive substantial funding in this area of science are Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Berlin, Munich and Hannover.

Overall, the report, which with a section of tables spanning approximately 100 pages and a commentary text section encompassing 150 pages, is significantly more extensive than the previous editions, shows that there are significant relationships between the various key figures. For instance, visiting scientists supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung) show a significant preference for universities which attract large scale DFG funding. The particular kudos granted to institutions where an above-average proportion of DFG reviewers are employed is reflected, for instance, in the high frequency of publications and citations from these "reviewer strongholds" in international journals. The relationship to third party funding incomes in general is also evident: universities which have received DFG grant approvals on a large scale are also above average in terms of third party funding.

Particular attention should be paid to the analyses of the networks arising from the joint participation of scientists from various institutions in coordinated programmes run by the DFG. The Humboldt University Berlin is worthy of note in this respect. Within a few years it has succeeded in attaining a central position in the network of humanities and social science research.

The analysis was based on the data on:The data presented in the report on universities refers to a total of 80 institutions, which received at least half a million Euros in grants between 1999 and 2001. According to this data it becomes evident, that the top 20 universities attract about 56% of the total funding volume between them. With regard for the previous DFG rankings it is worth noting, that the order of ranking has remained very stable over time. There are, however, isolated prominent shifts, for example the University of Würzburg, which has moved up from 14th to 10th and now to 8th place from the first DFG ranking to the current ranking. Further examples are the University of Tübingen, which has risen from twelfth to sixth and now to fourth place as well as the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, which has risen from thirteenth to eighth to fifth place.

In terms of European and international comparison the report on research and development is of ever-increasing significance. In addition to input data, there is an increasing need for output indicators with respect to evaluation of results and performance comparison of research programmes and institutions. In Germany the situation in this respect is still comparatively poor. First and foremost, there is no nationwide organisation to collect and administer such data and indicators. Against this background, the DFG recommends the establishment of an Institute for Research Information and Quality Assurance (IFQ) and hopes that such an organisation, intended to be a scientific implement to aid such activity, can be made a reality soon.

Overall, the various findings of this ranking report confirm most of all the assumption which was already programmatic in the first issue: DFG grant approvals are a good indicator for research activity. They display a high correlation to external funding overall, with the attraction of visiting scientists from abroad, with the participation in international programmes and with the level of publication activity as well as the acceptance success in international journals.
For further information: please contact Dr. Jürgen Güdler, Director for Information Management of the DFG, Kennedyallee 40, 53175 Bonn, Tel.: 0228/885-2649, e-mail:

Note to editors:
Editors can request a free review copy of the report (available in German only) from the DFG Press and Public Relations Office, Kennedyallee 40, 53175 Bonn, Germany, Tel.: 49-0228/885-2109 or Fax: 49-0228/885-2180. The report and additional material can also be found on the internet at (available only in German) or, alternatively, at

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

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