Turkish-German scientific collaborations are being intensified

An ICT Research Centre in Istanbul and Berlin, a Turkish-German University and numerous research projects promoting junior scientists and scholars in Turkey and in Germany. This year, Turkish-German academic collaborations are being strengthened and promise exciting initiatives for those keen on research.

Germany versus Turkey! People were eagerly waiting for the “ran” Match of the Century on 17 November 2013, when soccer legends from Germany and Turkey faced one another at the Schalke Arena in Gelsenkirchen. For example, Stefan Effenberg, Jens Lehmann and Mario Basler were among the soccer players competing with Yildiray Bastürk, Alpay Özalan and Ümit Korkmaz in the benefit match in aid of the “Ein Herz für Kinder” foundation. Although Germany lost 2:7, the two countries have already been chalking up success together in science and research for several years. Since 1951, there have been academic collaborations between Turkey and Germany, featuring a wide range of bilateral research projects and the exchange of academics, above all of junior academics.

Application-oriented and innovative: German-Turkish academic collaborations

The “German-Turkish Advanced Research Centre for Information and Communication Technologies” (GT-ARC) in Berlin and Istanbul is an example of academic partnership in application-oriented research in the field of ICT. It will be joined by further important milestones in academic cooperation this year. For example, the Turkish-German University in Istanbul will be taking on its first students this winter semester 2013/14 and is to act as a centre of international communication and intercultural skills in research and teaching in future.

Furthermore, Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka and Turkey’s Minister of Higher Education, Industry and Technology, Nihat Ergün, have declared 2014 a German-Turkish Year of Research, Education and Innovation. In a wide range of events that are to take place in Germany and Turkey in 2014, science and education organisations from both countries will be presenting their projects to a larger audience. Junior scientists in particular are to be inspired to engage in cooperation in research and science, for example through an ideas competition.

A free kick for junior academics

While the Turkish research and development budget has been raised by three percent this year, which means a considerable boost for information and technology funding, the German side is also investing in the common academic future. For example, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Joachim Herz Foundation are promoting the Turkish-German exchange of scientists in the context of their joint “Turkey Country Initiative”. Until 2016, the Herz Foundation, seated in Hamburg, will be funding up to eight Humboldt Research Fellowships in the natural sciences and supporting events in Turkey campaigning for Turkish-German science collaborations and promoting the exchange of scientists in natural science disciplines.

An own goal: too little support for junior academics!

From her own experience, Dr. Burcu Cakirli, Associate Professor at the University of Istanbul and Director of the Max Planck Partner Group for Nuclear Physics, is well aware of just how important such support is for young Turkish scientists and scholars as well as Masters’ students. “In Turkey (...) we cannot find any support for our MSc students who have no job at the university to finance their travels. We can use our budget for PhD student travels, but usually not for the MSc.” For this reason, Cakirli explains, it is important that grant programmes also specifically address students and enable them to have a longer research stay at a research institution, for example in Germany.

The nuclear physicist pursued her own academic career at Yale University and CERN in Switzerland, among other institutions. Having completed her doctorate in 2009, she did research at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg as a PostDoc, two years of which as a Humboldt Fellow. “What I first realized was that I had to work very hard. Second, in my field, it was obviously necessary to travel.” To Dr. Cakirli, travelling to other research institutions and working experience there are very important steps in a career. When she gives an account of her positive experience nowadays, this motivates young students in her surroundings at the University of Istanbul. “In general, even if we can use some budget for our PhD students, it will not be enough for their long-term stays abroad. I would then put MSc and PhD students in the same category. Some special budgets for both MSc students and Ph.D. candidates in Turkey might be great”.

The current Turkish-German collaborations are to bridge this gap, as desired. They are definitely motivating. And whatever the result of the Germany-Turkey Friendly, academic exchange will be entering exciting extra time!

Author: Sabine Müller