News & Views item - July 2006



German Chancellor Angela Merkel Writes an Editorial for Science. (July 15, 2006)

    Angela Merkel assumed the Chancellorship of Germany on November 22, 2005 heading a "Grand Coalition". Dr Merkel (52) is a graduate of the University of Leipzig, where she studied physics from 1973 to 1978. She then worked and studied at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences from 1978 to 1990. After graduating with a doctorate in physics she worked in quantum chemistry. She has been published in the Zeitschrift für Physikalische Chemie, Molecular Physics and the Journal of American Chemical Society.


In 1998 while German Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety she contributed one of the Essays on Science and Society for the Journal Science, "The Role of Science in Sustainable Development". She concluded, "In the long term, 'progress' works against us if it continues to be detrimental to nature. This realization will find increasing acceptance. Environmental protection will play a central role in the 21st century and will be a major challenge for politicians and scientists alike."


Now eight years later and head of the German government she tells the readers of Science, "The German government recognizes that our future lies in a knowledge-based society founded on freedom and responsibility. This is what will enable Germany to rise to the challenges of today's world, be they national or global, or economic, social, or ecological in nature. That is why the promotion of science, research, and innovation is one of my top priorities."


Dr Merkel then promises, "...we want to strengthen institutions and academics that are particularly outstanding and creative and also network successfully. By 2010, we aim to increase spending on R&D to 3% of gross domestic product. Science and research will be one of the priorities of Germany's European Union (EU) presidency."


She also emphasises that German university degrees will comply with the Bologna Reforms. And in what appears to be a blow against micromanagement she writes, "The task of government is to create conditions in which [science and research] can flourish and to provide the right kind of stimulus. That means that our universities and research institutions must be given more independence. They need greater freedom to choose their students and staff, develop their own profiles, cooperate with industry, and spend their funds as they see fit.


"Germany's future depends on first-class research, creative talent, and high-quality education and training..."


As an indication that her government is prepared to put significant resources behind her promises she singles out the €6 [A$10]-billion program to fund innovative "beacon" projects. And if she realises her aim of 3% of GDP for research and development (double Australia's current investment) it will be a notable achievement.