Joint Statement from German Postdoctoral Networks on the Eckpunktepapier from the BMBF on 17.03.2023

March 29, 2023

Joint Statement from German Postdoctoral Networks on the Eckpunktepapier from the BMBF on 17.03.2023

As representatives of several major German postdoc networks and on behalf of thousands of postdocs all over Germany, we are deeply concerned that the proposed reform of the WissZeitVG would exacerbate the key challenge scientists are already grappling with, namely the lack of long-term employment perspectives. It would be almost impossible to simultaneously apply for projects, gain supervision experience, complete research, publish at a high level, and apply for a permanent position within the proposed timeline. If passed, Germany would become less attractive to all postdocs and researchers, especially those from abroad.

Additionally, we are frustrated that none of the large German postdoctoral networks have been consulted on the matter by the BMBF, even though this law will directly affect us. International postdocs, which represent a large fraction of postdoctoral researchers in Germany, were also not an integral part of any of the discussions. These discussions have mainly been in German, even though this law has a significant impact on the lives of non-German speaking postdocs (e.g. for visas, integration in Germany, and childcare).

We believe that German academia is in need of comprehensive reforms that provide long-term career perspectives. As a starting point for the conversation, we propose the following:

  1. The German postdoctoral networks are stakeholders and must be active participants in any pertinent discussions regarding our futures, including the WissZeitVG debate and beyond.
  2. The postdoctoral phase should not be considered a qualification phase but rather a phase for professional development as postdocs are already highly-qualified researchers.
  3. The term ‘postdoc’ encompasses a diverse group of individuals with vastly different career goals and aspirations. The postdoctoral phase should be clearly defined before imposing strict boundaries on the duration.
  4. In conjunction with the WissZeitVG reform, the number of permanent positions in academia, including professor, group leader, or director must be increased, along with the implementation of new position types that allow for mobility in the academic system (e.g. permanent research staff positions). 

We believe that these four changes would benefit not only postdocs but also the quality of scientific research in Germany. Putting scientists under time-bound pressure not only impacts the quality of the work but also the trajectory of science as a whole. Better working conditions will lead to better, more careful science, and a higher proportion of permanent staff will lead to continuity in research and teaching, increasing the quality of both.

It is clear that the German academic system needs other changes that go hand-in-hand with the reform of the WissZeitVG to ensure the goal of better career perspectives for researchers. Postdocs are a vital part of academia. Worsening their working conditions jeopardizes the strong reputation of German science in the world.

We hope that this statement will encourage you to engage in an open discussion with all of the postdoctoral networks signed here in the current conversation and in the future.


The Max Planck PostdocNet 

Munich Postdoc Network (MPN)

Leibniz PostDoc Network

Postdoc Representatives & Networks of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres: Helmholtz Munich Postdoc Association, AWI Postdoc Team, Max Delbrück Center Postdoc Association (MDC PDA), GFZ Potsdam Postdoc Reps, GEOMAR PostDoc+ Team, HZDR Postdoc Reps, Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin Postdoc Council, DFKZ Postdoc Representatives, Postdoc Representatives of the Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen (DZNE/Bonn Site)

CERFA (Association of Spanish Researchers in Germany)

Representatives of Rede Apoena (Network of Brazilian Researchers in Germany)

Postdoc Committee of the Göttingen Campus Postdoc Network

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