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Research ranking scheme to be rolled out across Germany

The Wissenschaftsrat, Germany’s governmental science advice council, wants to extend a research ranking system across all fields, it emerged during the council’s latest session.

After its meeting on 28 October, the council said that the existing ranking system, which covers chemistry, sociology, electronics and information technology, was doing an excellent job. In a statement, the council said its members supported an extension of the system to all research fields to monitor quality and subject development.

The first research rankings were trialled in 2005, and reports on results were submitted in 2011 and 2012. These results had been extremely helpful in determining research performance among universities and institutes, the Wissenschaftsrat said. “The research rankings are defined by high methodical quality, adaptation to subject-specific conditions and far-reaching usefulness," said Wolfgang Marquardt, who chairs the Wissenschaftsrat.

The rankings are now to be extended to cover all research, including life sciences, social sciences and humanities, engineering and medicine. For each university at least five subjects will be analysed in each field to determine quality and research development.

The Wissenschaftsrat said that this would be the first time German universities would be able to compare themselves with their peers based on independent data. The rankings could also be used to determine areas of excellence and promote German research abroad, the council added.

The rankings will be compiled by an independent group of scientists monitored by the Wissenschaftsrat to avoid any political interference. Funding for the system has not yet been secured, but the council said it is in discussions with the federal and state governments on providing the necessary support.