Do you trust me?

There are two fundamentally different ways of financing scientific research: You can either trust your researchers because you believe in their long-term commitment or you cannot trust your researchers and base your financing on their individual interests. At the Annual General Meeting of the Max Planck PhDnet in Jena (28-31 October 2009), the President of the Max Planck Society, Prof. Peter Gruss, explained the two systems that were defined by K. U. Mayer in 2002. According to him low-trust funding results in short-term investments and potentially in high but uneven returns wheras high-trust funding leads to long-term investment and stable but maybe somewhat lower returns. Examples of short-term “low trust” funding include project funding by DFG and others wheras the Max Planck Society receives high trust funding which includes internal evaluation and ex-post evaluation. While high trust funding comes with the potential problem of personal inflexibility due to long-term tenure, low trust funding may lead to low cooperation and low loyality due to short-time tenure.

While low trust funding fosters competition, according to Prof. Gruss, only high trust funding can be applied for basic research where the next great idea might be out of the mainstream funding that is the automatic result of ex-ante evaluation by your peers.

In today’s science world, what do we need? Do we really need more competition? Or should we rather aim for more cooperation and long-term investments? Since many of today’s science projects are planned in decades rather than in months, it seems very strange that an increasing fraction of scientists is only hired on a few-year basis with no reliable career opportunities for the future.


3 Responses to Do you trust me?

  1. Matt says:

    This is off topic, but I have a few questions for the authors and anyone who can answer….
    I am a US citizen and student and I have applied to several graduate programs in neuroscience three of which are in Germany: Tübingen, Göttingen, and LMU-München. I was just invited to interview with all three and will be coming to Germany from the 6-22 of March. I am very excited about the opportunity!!
    I don’t speak/read german fluently so the information I can get off the web is limited. Therefore, I am hoping that you will be able to clear some things up for me.

    Funding: The US programs I have applied to offer stipends of ~$25000/year, free health insurance, and tuition remission. This is pretty standard over here. It seems like the funding is a little trickier in Germany. Do you have to apply for scholarships from the DAAD? What is the average amount received? etc..

    Education: It seems as if the programs, other than LMU, require a master’s before getting your PhD. Is it difficult to get into the PhD program if you get your master’s at a particular uni (ie. I get my master’s at Tübingen will I get in to the PhD program at Tübingen automatically?) Is one of the programs I applied to much better than the others or vice versa? How hands-on are PI’s in Germany, it may vary among individuals, do they help you with your research or just let you fend for yourself?

    Finally: Is there a major benefit for me to study in Germany? If you were in my position would you come to Germany to study and at which school assuming acceptance to all three?

    Thank you so much for the help. I realize I’vbe asked a lot but I really appreciate it.


  2. Since these questions might be interesting to a broader audience, I’m turning my reply to Matt into a series of blog posts. –Susannah

  3. Matt says:

    I appreciate the advice and email. Very helpful indeed.

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