Guideline 2: Enabling research excellence in Europe

With the National Action Plan, the Federal Government is creating the basis for excellent research in Europe, where our researchers benefit from open and seamless cooperation across borders.

Close-up of a female scientist wearing protective glasses

Adobe Stock / Sidekick

A "single market for knowledge" is and remains the core aim of the European Research Area. Mobility within the European Research Area must be facilitated further: researchers should find the best possible conditions for their excellent research and innovation in Europe. They achieve innovative breakthroughs together and generate European added value through cross-border collaboration, close European and international networks and personal exchange.

Field of action 3 in support of research excellence in Europe: modernising parameters for open and excellent research cooperation

To ensure effective cross-border cooperation in the European Research Area, the Member States must coordinate with one another regarding the parameters of their national research systems. In light of the opportunities of digitalisation and changing requirements in science, it is important to continue to consistently modernise these parameters for excellent research and innovation, and to take the European dimension into consideration from the outset. In this way, the interoperability of the European research systems will be boosted. This relates, among other things, to questions of open science, aspects of research assessment, or scientific careers.

In the framework of the Action Plan for the European Research Area, the Federal Government wants to:

a) Structurally strengthen open access

The Federal Government wants to make free access to publications resulting from publicly funded research the standard in the German research system. To this end, they are, among other things, closely following the further development of the Open Research Europe publication platform. Germany welcomes the opening of the platform to publications outside of the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, and is examining the possibility of future involvement in opening up the platform to researchers in Germany. The Federal Government welcomes the development of academic infrastructures which support the aims of free access to research publications and data.

b) Optimise data from and for researchers

The Federal Government is seeking to ensure science-friendly data legislation at European level, including with regard to the application of the Data Act, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Governance Act. They are proposing legal parameters which take into account the issues of access and making research data usable both by the scientific community and by industry, and which facilitate the development of a data economy in Europe. The Federal Government will develop a Research Data Act in Germany, with due regard for European open data efforts, the GDPR and the Data Act.

Germany is developing our National Research Data Infrastructure with the aim of systematically making existing scientific and research data accessible, connected and usable for the entire research system. In doing so, it is seeking to promote synergies and interoperability between the services developed by the National Research Data Infrastructure and those developed by the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). The aim is to produce new knowledge, products, business models and innovations on the basis of high-quality and easily accessible research data, in order to secure economic prosperity and social progress in Germany and Europe over the long term.

The Federal Government is seeking to ensure greater and more widespread data literacy across the entire research spectrum, i.e. across all academic disciplines and at all career levels (from early-career to experienced researchers). This requires a change of culture in the initial and continuing training of researchers and support staff at national and European level to foster greater data and digital literacy.

To achieve better and more effective use of data in health research and healthcare, Germany is working towards a decentralised Europe-wide interconnected data system with central access options and the harmonisation of health data governance. The Federal Government is developing the legal framework at national and European level further, for example with the Health Data Use Act (Gesundheitsdatennutzungsgesetz) and the Commission’s proposal for a regulation on the European Health Data Space. The aim of these measure is to optimise the data usage conditions and generate maximum benefit for society.

c) Support the reform of research assessment

With regard to the assessment of research performance, Germany is in support of a more qualitative approach in addition to quantitative measurement. In this regard, it supports the Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment as an approach leading to more qualitative research assessment, and welcome this process, which is organised at European level. The Federal Government also welcomes the commitment of the German research organisations in their voluntary support for this reform. They will engage in regular dialogue with the Länder and the research organisations on this topic and examine whether additional measures are necessary to support research assessment reform.

Field of action 4 in support of research excellence in Europe: removing obstacles to European cooperation

To ensure that Europe remains competitive on the global stage and an attractive location for science, it is important to further simplify European research and innovation cooperation and to dismantle the obstacles to transnational cooperation that still exist.

In the framework of the Action Plan for the European Research Area, the Federal Government wants to:

a) Facilitate researcher mobility in the European Research Area

Mobility is an important element of scientific work and enables researchers to access international networks and research organisations. The Federal Government will further focus its measures to promote researcher mobility: Improvements must be made by dismantling bureaucratic obstacles to mobility and by simplifying the processes for recognition of academic achievements and relevant professional experience in research in other countries.

In this context, Germany is seeking to ensure a science-friendly interpretation and further development of the EU legislation of the free movement of services in the single market, for example with regard to the coordination of social security systems (A1 certificate), the posting of workers, and the directive on equal pay and equal employment conditions. The Federal Government supports the rotation and exchange of research personnel under their original local employment contracts, with the aim of facilitating temporary stays and short-term mobility.

Seamless recognition of academic achievements, qualifications and relevant professional experience abroad is essential for researcher mobility in the European Research Area. To this end, Germany wants to simplify and accelerate the recognition process in scientific careers, for example by promoting a uniform definition of career stages for researchers across national borders.

b) Strengthen cross-border mobility and ties

To promote mobility, the Federal Government is working towards comparable definitions in Europe and standards for researchers in the scientific community that are interoperable with other sectors. They are proactively engaging with the development of the "ERA Talent Platform" at EU level and seeking to ensure compatibility with existing national services. The digital services at national and European level will interlock and complement one another.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research supports, with a national coordination office, the COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) initiative, which connects scientific and technological research activities in Europe. Germany will assume the presidency of the network from 2027 to 2029.

c) Establish good employment conditions as a competitive advantage

Researchers’ employment conditions are an important factor in the international competition between locations for science. To ensure that Germany and Europe remain competitive in this context, attractive conditions must be provided for researchers in the European Research Area. To this end, the Federal Government is taking steps such as reforming the Academic Fixed-Term Contract Act (Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz), in order to provide greater reliability, planning certainty and transparency for early-career researchers and to ensure a better work-life balance. By means of regular adjustments to the Future Contract for Strengthening Studying and Teaching in Higher Education, Germany is making additional funding available to ensure greater financial planning certainty and more permanent positions for studying and teaching at higher education institutions. In this way, Germany is also contributing to better employment conditions and greater planning certainty for career paths in the European Higher Education Area and the European Research Area.

Field of action 5 in support of research excellence in Europe: boosting participation in the research and innovation system

The idea of a European Research Area is brought to life by the scientific community, whose members forge cross-border connections and collaborate on projects that generate European added value. They form the backbone of the European knowledge society. Europe´s full potential in all its diversity must be leveraged.

In the framework of the Action Plan for the European Research Area, the Federal Government wants to:

a) Implement equal opportunities as standard

In order to significantly increase the proportion of women in Germany’s academic system towards parity, especially in leadership positions, and to strengthen diversity in the science landscape, there is a need for structural changes as well as a change of culture in science and research. To this end, the Federal Government is pursuing a strategic approach to identify gaps in the system and develop tailored measures. The Programme for Women Professors 2030 of the Federal Government and the Länder is contributing to increase the number of female professors in Germany, and also to strengthen gender equality at higher education institutions through specific measures.

b) Strengthen the dialogue between science and society in the European context

To improve the dialogue between science and society in the European Research Area, the Federal Government will set priorities: targeted skills development and networking opportunities for researchers to promote an enhanced dialogue with society, and support for the development of a European Science Media Centre. In addition, the Federal Government wants to cement and expand the public’s involvement in research and in research policy.

c) Boost access to excellence in the European Research Area

By supporting countries and regions which currently have lower-performing research and innovation ecosystems in developing their capacities for excellent research and innovation, Germany will close these gaps and thus strengthen cooperation and mobility in the entire European Research Area. The Bridge2ERA funding measure, for example, is intended to enable Central Eastern European and South-East European countries to access the European research and innovation networks.

Progress will also be made via national and European initiatives for better recognition of research management. Germany is sharing its experience with its national Excellence Strategy in the discussions on a planned European Excellence Initiative. The Federal Government supports European ties in the field of educational research in order to increase the scientific knowledge gained through cross-border dialogue.