Gutenberg Council for Young Researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz gets down to work

University to invest EUR 1 million annually to promote long-term improvement of working conditions and support services for young researchers and academics


With the establishment of the Gutenberg Council for Young Researchers (GYR), Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) is taking an innovative approach to the promotion and mentoring of young research and academic talent. "Formed as an expert body under the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments, the GYR is responsible for the structuring and communication of existing funding formats as well as the development of new ones," explained the President of Mainz University, Professor Georg Krausch. "A particular objective of the Gutenberg Council for Young Researchers is to provide long-term improvement of the working conditions and advisory services for young researchers and scholars by offering individual support programs tailored to the various career phases between obtaining a doctorate and being appointed as a professor."

The Gutenberg Council for Young Researchers will be funded to the tune of EUR 1 million annually from 2014 to 2016 – EUR 650,000 will be donated by the Rhineland-Palatinate Research Initiative, the remaining EUR 350,000 will come from the university budget. The GYR will bring together and enhance the various support programs at JGU for doctoral candidates and postdoctoral researchers, for those writing their postdoctoral thesis to qualify as a professor and for junior professors. As part of this strategy, JGU intends to focus in particular on the promotion of young scholars in the humanities and social sciences. At its inaugural meeting, the GYR Executive Committee decided to develop and financially support the concept of 'mini-graduate schools' in these disciplines. These are small groups of three to five excellent young scholars and researchers with an interdisciplinary research focus. They are funded by a scholarship and mentored by several professors. "Excellent young humanities and social sciences scholars will thus have infrastructure in place at our university that will give them the room for maneuver they need to produce outstanding work and cement their long-term professional opportunities for their futures in academia," emphasized the President.

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz sees the promotion of young researchers as one if its core duties. Annually, some 600 young researchers and scholars are awarded doctoral degrees at JGU, 51 percent women. About 35 young researchers and scholars receive their post-doctoral professorial qualification every year and another 50 are awarded a junior professorship, in addition to numerous independent, externally supported junior research groups.

In addition to providing for individual routes to a doctorate, Mainz University also offers interdisciplinary structured programs for young researchers and scholars in all phases of their careers, such as the Gutenberg Academy for the 25 best doctoral candidates at the university, courses to enable them to obtain soft skills, and academic career planning support. There are also many third party-funded doctoral programs, e.g., the Graduate School of Excellence "Materials Science in Mainz," the Max Planck Graduate Center with Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (MPGC), numerous research training groups funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), internally funded social sciences and humanities research groups, and the International Max Planck Research Schools.

The launch of the Gutenberg Council for Young Researchers represents another key element of JGU's institutional strategy that has attracted praise in the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments. The basic strategy for enhancing the professionalization of overall institutional management at JGU takes the form of involvement of excellent academics and scholars in university governance while strengthening the powers of the decentralized decision-making bodies at the same time. The university as an expert organization will thus benefit from the broad expertise of all its members, who will be actively working to shape it.

A milestone on this route was reached with the establishment of the Gutenberg Research College as an advisory and support structure focusing exclusively on the promotion of scientific excellence. In 2011, the Gutenberg Teaching Council was launched to promote excellence in teaching and to develop innovative teaching concepts. The Gutenberg Council for Young Researchers founded in 2014 complements these support structures. With members who are eminent authorities in various disciplines, these three institutions act as strategic advisory bodies for the university administration.

In consultation with the University Senate, the President of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Professor Georg Krausch, has appointed the Executive Committee of the Gutenberg Council for Young Researchers. It consists of JGU members who have exhibited active support for and excellent results in the promotion of young researchers. In addition to professors, the committee also includes young researchers in various career phases from doctorate to advanced postdocs and outstanding students from various disciplines. At the inaugural meeting of the Gutenberg Council for Young Researchers, Professor Mathias Kläui was selected as Coordinator of the Executive Committee. Kläui holds a professorship at the Institute of Physics at JGU and is Director of the Graduate School of Excellence Materials Science in Mainz (MAINZ).