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Talented young scientists and scholars – the members of the Junge Akademie;
Talented young scientists and scholars – the members of the Junge Akademie; | Photo (detail): © Junge Akademie

The Junge Akademie is considered the world’s first academy for young scientists and scholars. It promotes new ideas of young researchers and provides a forum for the exchange of views across all disciplinary borders.

Legal scholars talk with astrophysicists, mathematicians exchange ideas with philosophers. Since its founding in 2000, the Junge Akademie (i.e., the Young Academy) has served as an interdisciplinary forum for talented young researchers. The exchanges are meant to stimulate in academics at the beginning of their careers creative and innovative research ideas. “The interdisciplinary discourse at the Junge Akademie also teaches you to communicate your research precisely and clearly and to question your ideas even more”, says Sibylle Baumbach. The junior professor of English Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Mainz has been a member of the Junge Akademie since 2011.

The Junge Akademie goes back to the initiative of two established academies: the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina. Members of these prestigious institutions thought that young German researchers lacked sufficient scope and support. This lack was to be made good by the Junge Akademie. “Here young scientists and scholars should have the opportunity to carry on research in accordance with their own ideas”, says Dieter Simon, former President of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and one of the founders of the Junge Akademie.

“A voice that is heard”

The Junge Akademie also provides a forum for the young scientists and scholars to work together on academic policy goals: members publish position papers on issues in university and research policy, organize public discussions and expert hearings. “As a young academic, you have a voice that is heard”, Baumbach sums up. “As a lone fighter in the university, that’s almost impossible.” Baumbach is one of the 50 members of the Junge Akademie. Most of them, like her, are junior professors. Membership lasts five years: every year ten people leave and ten new people are accepted.

Theoretically, any young researcher from a German-speaking country can join the Junge Akademie. But the admission criteria are strict: candidates must have written an excellent doctoral dissertation and published at least one other, first-class piece of research. Baumbach and her colleagues meet in Research Groups, which are the real core of the Academy’s work. These groups are by no means discussions in a small circle; they organize symposia and cultural events, conduct studies and publish their research results. The topics treated are very diverse and combine openness to the experimental with an interdisciplinary approach.

Latest research and social policy objectives

In addition, members meet three times a year in plenary sessions. Here they inform each other about their current research projects and plan joint projects. Many of these initiatives serve social policy goals; for example, the competition Who Gets Carried Away by Europe?, which was announced at the end of 2014. “It was important to the members of the Junge Akademie to formulate a question geared towards European integration – particularly at a time when many people are looking critically at Europe”, says Manuel Tröster, Scientific Coordinator of the Administrative Office at the Junge Akademie in Berlin.

On these projects, as on many others, the Junge Akademie cooperated with several other European sister institutions. For the German organization is no longer the only one of its kind. Shortly after the founding of the Junge Akademie, other countries adopted the model of an academy for promoting young academics. Now there are at least ten other Young Academies, including in Scotland and the Netherlands. To finance his or her work, each member of the Junge Akademie receives a budget of about 25,600 euros. The organization is supported by several sponsors. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research contributes 80 per cent of the funding. Ten per cent comes from the State of Saxony-Anhalt and another ten per cent from the States of Berlin and Brandenburg.

This funding benefits not only the 50 members of the Academy. Former members come together for, for instance, alumni meetings and help each other in matters of career and research. In this way, the Junge Akademie promotes not only individual researchers, but also the future of research, science and scholarship.