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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Protest of the Professors
3 April 2001 7:00 pm
The war of words over efforts to reform Germany's hierarchical university system ratcheted up a notch last week. The latest salvo is a 4-page advertisement in the nation's top newspaper, signed by 3759 professors, that criticizes the research ministry's plans to create "junior professors," phase out the Habilitation requirement--a kind of extended postdoc needed to secure academic tenure--and change some work rules that favor professors.
Under the headline "Protect Universities From the Departure of Their Top Talent," the ad urges the German Parliament to reject the proposed reforms. It says they would degrade the quality of professorships under the guise of promoting more independence for younger researchers. Hartmut Schiedermair, a law professor at the University of Cologne, warns that presenting the reforms as "cost neutral" is misleading and that the more likely result will be pay cuts that will drive many new professors into industry or abroad. Schiedermair is also president of the main organization of German university professors, the Deutscher Hochschulverband (DHV), that placed the ad in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. The signatories represent nearly 12% of the country's 32,000 professors.
The chief target of the DHV's wrath is research Minister Edelgard Bulmahn, who has championed the reform package. A ministry spokesperson calls the campaign "unserious and full of errors." For example, she rejects the DHV's assertion that salaries for new professors would fall drastically under the new system.
Supporters of the reforms include the German conference of university rectors and presidents and Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, president of the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) basic-research granting agency. They and others argue that the best way to promote the independence of young scientists is to create "junior professorships"--roughly equivalent to U.S.-style assistant professor slots--and to phase out the post-Ph.D. Habilitation requirement, which puts young researchers under the thumb of senior professors for years.
The lobbying from all sides is converging on Germany's Parliament, which appears likely to make a decision later this year. With one of Germany's leading newspapers describing the fight as "The Bulls Against Bulmahn," the debate promises to be one of the nation's liveliest in years.