Science in Germany

Sabine Dippel sabine at hlrz24.zam.kfa-juelich.de
Tue Nov 19 04:10:57 EST 1996


In article <56pram$qim at n.ruf.uni-freiburg.de>, 
bonifer at sun2.ruf.uni-freiburg.de (Constanze Bonifer) writes:
... stuff deleted...
|> In the last years I have been an Assistant Professor at University of Freiburg,
|> with my own little group within a larger department. In order to be able to 
|> apply for a permanent position in this country, one has to go through something 
|> called "Habilitation", which basically means, that you have to produce a certain 
|> amount of publications, you have to do a certain amount of teaching, the 
|> amount being dependent on the position of your "sponsor" in the faculty. If 
|> you have a strong sponsor, you need less, if you have a week one..well.
|> Only VERY few women in Germany reach this status.
|> The sponsor miraculously also often ends up on someones publications.
|> 
|> However, being "habilitated" is no guarantee for a position. I experience this 
|> now. My contract runs out now, no position anywhere (only 5% of all professors 
|> in Germany are women), and to be able to get a position you have to be in the 
|> network. Or your sponsor has to be very powerful.
|> Outside of academia there are no jobs for somebody like me. Industry has a 
|> strict age limit (35 years, I am 41). Unlike in England or the US it is not 
|> possible to write grants for your position (rolling contracts), one HAS to 
|> get an official position with a salary.
|> There are a few 5 years positions.but here we are again: age limit 35 years.
|> 
|> People get funding and  salaries until they are about 40 and then get dumped.
|> I have been able to attract an immense amount of funding, however,in this 
|> country you can not apply for your own salary. Which created the absurd 
|> situation that I can pay two postdocs but not myself. 
|> When I have to leave this money will have to be given back (or be used by 
|> all these Professors from the Institute who have not been able to attrack 
|> funding..but over my dead body only!)
|> 
|> So what do I do? I have quite a reputation in the field I am working in now 
|> (chromatin structure and expression, transgenesis, locus activation problems), 
|> this does not seem to help. So at present I am trying to find a position abroad again.
|> It is pretty awful. I have invested so much in my profession and the only thing I 
|> hear from my present head of department: well, not good enough.
|> Outrageous.
|> I do share this fate with quite a significant number of scientists (male and 
|> female). It would be nice, if these people would come out of the closet, too.
|> 
|> Oh, and on top of everything else, the University position I had does not 
|> entitle me to get unemployment benefits (no insurance), which means in cse I get 
|> no position until next summer I have to live on social welfare.
|> And, in order to keep my "Private Dozent" Title I have to continue to teach 
|> two hours a week at the University without being paid.
|> 
|> Amazing, eh? 
|> 
|> Constanze
|>
|> --
|> 
|> Constanze Bonifer
|> Institut fuer BiologieIII
|> Universitaet Freiburg
|> Tel.: 0761 - 2032761
|> Fax: 0761 - 2032745

Sorry for repeating all this, but I just did not know where to cut, and I think 
Constanze describes the situation in Germany very well. The situation she describes
is just the one I am afraid of, and the reason why I am SERIOUSLY considering to 
leave research (at least in university).

The problem is that here in Germany, everything can go very well - up to the point
when you need to find a permanent position, where the only permanent jobs are 
professorships, the supply of which is clearly much smaller than the number of 
applicants. In my work, I have strong collaboration with people in France, where 
the situation is worse than in previous years, but still better than in Germany in
my opinion. Sure, there are less job openings for maitre de conference or CNRS 
CR1 or CR2 positions (entry level jobs), but at that point there is still the 
possibility to back out into industry. And if you get that sort of job, it is 
permanent. Sure, I know people who have been stuck with such a job for quite
a while, because there are very little openings for professorships, but still - 
these jobs are secure, and people are quite free in the sort of research they do,
as long as it does not require very expensive equipment. 

So people in France keep asking me why I am considering to leave research, and I 
keep explaining the German situation -- then they usually understand. Actually,
I am seriously considering looking for a job in France -- I think I have more of
the necessary connections in France than in Germany, and the field I am working
in is more popular in France anyway. 

I would also like to confirm that Constanzes situation is one shared by many people
(male and female) in Germany. (BTW, I was in Freiburg until the end of 1994, and there
was a guy in the physics department, Thomas Filk, just in case you, Constanze, know 
him, who ended up in just this situation - there were simply no openings in his 
field of work, so even though he gave VERY good classes, he was searching for a job
for ages. I don't know if he has found anything yet.) Just like I said in a previous
posting - besides being REALLY good, you need a lot of luck and very good connections,
and even then it may take a while to find something.

Constanze, I wish you all the best. By the way, have you ever considered France? 
Does the biology department have good connections to Strasbourg or Mulhouse? 
A colleague of mine (in Physics), an American, exactly your age, just managed to 
get a professorship in France, but that also needed lots of help (in the way of 
providing information, looking over applications, etc.).

Sabine

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