Stemming the Brain Drain | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 16.08.2004
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Stemming the Brain Drain

Germany's largest research institute, the Helmholtz Association, wants to promote "brain gain" by offering up to €125,000 ($152,825) to 20 recent post-doctorates each year for the next five years.


Germany wants more brains

Dr. Katrin Amunts’ research lets her see exactly what’s in someone’s mind -- at least what’s in the cerebral cortex.

She’s sliced eight of them micrometer thin, analyzed them under the microscope and created precise maps to show doctors what’s happening deep in humans’ minds.

"Our high-definition, 3-D maps give a view of deep portions of the brain that otherwise are very hard to decipher," Amunts said in an interview with DW-WORLD.

The brain maps she’s making at the Helmholtz Association research center in Jülich, near Aachen, Germany, may eventually provide doctors with precise diagrams they need to develop new therapies for Parkinson's and other brain diseases.

Amunts’ work is part of a pilot program that established 20 research groups and was successful enough to convince the Helmholtz Association to expand its Young Investigators Program, Dr. Bärbel Köster, a Helmholtz spokeswoman, told DW-WORLD.

Studieren in Deutschland: Hochschultypen / Universität

Finish the research, and you've started on your way to a professorship

The enlarged program will support 20 research groups for five years with up to €125,000 ($152,825). Every year 20 new groups will be started until 100 groups are always running, she said.

At a time when "brain drain" dominates many scientific discussions, and politicians expect the Germany's highest court to lift the ban on fees for higher education, more money could help attract top scientists.

Career chances

Amunts acknowledged the problem, but said she has the ideal infrastructure here in Germany and will stay to focus and supplement her primary results. She still has two more brains to dissect.

Though she’s not the only researcher left in Germany, every seventh person with a doctorate in science leaves for the United States, estimated The Scientist magazine last year.

Helmholtz has made sure the scientists who take part in the extended program will also have a reason to stay in Germany. They are guaranteed a tenure position at the university, as long as they receive a final positive evaluation.

Application criteria

Applicants from all over the world are encouraged to apply, but they have to have received their doctoral degree two to six years ago, have international research experience, be under 36 years old and able to work at one of Helmholtz's 15 research centers or a partner university.

Köster has already received about 20 applications, but said she imagines the partner centers have received many more. The deadline for applications is Nov. 1.

The Helmholtz Association ,with its annual budget of about €2.1 billion and 24,000 employees, conducts research in the fields of energy, earth and environment, health, key technologies, structure of matter, and transport and space.

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