A measure of excellence

DFG presents its fourth funding ranking of German research institutions

This press release is also available in German.

The University of Munich heads the 2006 Funding Ranking compiled by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation). The university's academics received 131 million euros in DFG third party funding between 2002 and 2004, closely followed by the Aachen University of Technology (126 million euros) and the universities of Heidelberg and Würzburg (105 million euros each). In terms of funding amounts per professor, however, the University of Karlsruhe, which is comparatively smaller, was the clear leader. These are the findings of the DFG's fourth funding ranking, which was presented today in Berlin. With data taken from various funding organisations and state institutions, the 2006 report contains more information about the German research landscape than previous DFG rankings. The report mainly focuses on the 40 German universities that received the highest amount of funding, totalling over 85 percent of all DFG funding during the study period. However, the report also includes other universities and non-university research institutions.

In regional terms, Berlin (325 million euros) and the urban and rural districts of Munich (261 million euros) were particularly strong. The same applies to the region of "Aachen – Bonn – Cologne", which received a total of 296 million euros during the period of the study. If one also adds the area of Düren with the Jülich Research Centre, this amount rises to 306 million euros. Hannover and Brunswick together received 167 million euros, and "Mannheim – Heidelberg – Karlsruhe" and "Stuttgart – Tübingen – Ulm" came to over 250 million euros.

Using data based on direct project funding for research and development (R&D) from federal ministries, in particular the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Berlin (390 million euros) and Munich (425 million euros) are again the leading research regions, along with "Aachen – Bonn – Cologne". A Swabian network in southeast Germany comprising Stuttgart, Reutlingen, Esslingen, Ulm, and the Ostalb region, and the area of "Hannover – Brunswick – Göttingen" were also very well funded. In terms of federal states, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia received the highest amounts of DFG and federal awards.

Alongside the report's central indicator – DFG awards per individual research institution – the 2006 ranking for the first time includes information on R&D funding for selected federal programmes, for thematic priorities within the European Union's Sixth Framework Programme, and for collaborative industrial research funded by the German Federation of Industrial Cooperative Research Associations "Otto von Guericke". The third party funding indicators, which each depict individual aspects of publicly financed research, represent in total around 80 percent of all public third party funding for university research.

The report also takes into account the number of visiting fellows funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (indicators of international appeal and visibility), as well as the number of DFG reviewers and review board members (indicator of academic excellence). To mark the 20th anniversary of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize with its 250 awards, the report also incorporates a university-based "Leibniz Ranking" as a measure of academic excellence.

Overall, the funding ranking covers various indicators, demonstrating research activity and its quality. Using the example of DFG awards, this was and is justified because the financial resources of the DFG are awarded only to those scientists and academics who, with their projects, join in the ever-intensifying competition between the best ideas and in some programmes also between the best structures for research and the training of young researchers. The 2006 ranking shows above all that the amount of funding data and its respective differentiation provides far more information than just funding statistics. "First and foremost, the data provides information about top-level research in Germany, structural aspects of research funding, and the academic focus of individual research institutions and regions", according to Dr. Jürgen Güdler, Head of Information Management at the DFG. "This means that our study can also provide an innovative contribution to the discussion of how universities can set strategic research priorities."

The 2006 ranking differentiates how third party funding is distributed across 14 different subject areas, which can be compared according to university. The results show that with 2.6 billion euros, the majority of the funding for universities that received over 0.5 million euros in DFG awards during the reporting period went to the field of medicine, followed by mechanical engineering, process engineering and material sciences (1.2 billion euros). A total of 440 million euros went to the humanities, and 696 million euros went to the social and behavioural sciences.

In relation to the number of professors, per capita figures for the study period of 2001 to 2003 resulted in 1.1 million euros for mechanical engineering, 478,000 euros for chemistry, 145,000 euros for the social and behavioural sciences, and 107,000 euros for the humanities. According to Dr. Güdler, "These differences cannot be explained by the different research activities of academics, but rather by the different funding required in order to carry out research projects."

Overall, a large number of universities achieved a high ranking as a result of having a specific academic orientation. Since approximately 38 percent of DFG grants go to the life sciences, universities that specialise in these fields are generally ranked highest in the DFG report. The University of Munich received around 60 percent of its third party funding in this area, while the figure is as high as 80 percent for the University of Würzburg. In the ten highest ranked universities, four universities have a technical emphasis, in particular Aachen University of Technology. However, the report also shows that four of the ten top-placed universities, Munich, Tübingen and Berlin (Humboldt University and Free University of Berlin), also owe their ranking to researchers in the humanities and social sciences. In Munich and Tübingen, the funding amount even exceeds the amount for the natural sciences. Smaller universities, however, also increase their visibility in the university landscape by focusing on specific research fields: Paderborn is one of the most renowned universities in the field of electrical engineering, computer science, and systems engineering; Mannheim is an important centre for social and behavioural sciences; and Freiberg University of Mining and Technology is a leading research institution for energy research and technology.

To illustrate the research profiles of universities, the 2006 report uses a network-analytical visualisation procedure, which was specially designed for the DFG study at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne. This allows clusters of universities to be identified that have a similar overall profile in terms of subject differentiation. Map-based illustrations show how DFG and federal grants are distributed across regions. This shows which subjects (DFG awards) and which thematic research fields (federal awards) characterise the individual "research regions".

The 2006 ranking was financed in full by the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany. "The Donors' Association naturally wanted to support the DFG Funding Ranking," according to its President Arend Oetker. "Competition is the best way of improving performance in the scientific system – when you can identify the winners and losers. It ensures that everyone will strive to be even better."

Following previous reports in 1997, 2000 and 2003, the 2006 Funding Ranking is the fourth report on the distribution of awards to universities. Comparing the individual studies also allows long-term trends to be identified. Over a period of 14 years, the ranking of individual universities has largely remained stable. However, there have also been changes. Since the first report, the University of Würzburg (ranked 14th) has continuously worked its way up the rankings, and the Dresden University of Technology is in the "Top 20" for the first time. The universities of Bremen, Jena and Halle-Wittenberg have also improved their research profiles and overall standing.

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Additional Information

The German version of the DFG Funding Ranking is available on the DFG website at www.dfg.de/ranking. An English version will be available soon.

For more information about the ranking, please contact:
Daniel Bovelet, Project Manager for the "Funding Ranking", Information Management, Tel. +49 228 885-2589, E-Mail: Daniel.Bovelet@dfg.de
Dr. Jürgen Güdler, Head of Information Management, Tel. +49 228 885-2649, E-Mail: Juergen.Guedler@dfg.de

References:
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Förder-Ranking 2006
Institutionen - Regionen - Netzwerke
DFG-Bewilligungen und weitere Basisdaten öffentlich geförderter Forschung
2006, 184 pages
ISBN-13: 978-3-527-31926-8
ISBN-10: 3-527-31926-3

Note for journalists:
Journalists may request a free copy from the DFG's Press and Public Relations Office, Kennedyallee 40, 53175 Bonn, Germany, Tel. +49 228 885-2109, Fax +49 228 885-2180.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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