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The Wissenschaftsrat (German Council of Science and Humanities) was founded on 5 September 1957 by the Federal Government and the Länder governments. It is the oldest advisory body for science policy in Europe. In the words of the first Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Konrad Adenauer, at the signing of the Administrative Agreement on the establishment of a Wissenschaftsrat, it was "the first time that an institution has been created on German territory which is intended to provide an overview of scientific work in the Federal Republic of Germany and put forward proposals to the Federal Government and Länder governments with regard to the advancement of science." Ever since the mid-1950s, there had been calls for the establishment of a Wissenschaftsrat from leading scientists and politicians, such as the President of the DFG, Gerhard Hess, and Federal President Theodor Heuss, who appointed scientists and personalities from public life to the Wissenschaftsrat and chaired the constituent meeting on 6 March 1958.

The Council's history, from its beginnings in the late 1950s, can be viewed in terms of at least three phases of science policy development; the Wissenschaftsrat itself was instrumental in determining each of these phases:

_ In the 1960s and 1970s, the focus was on the expansion of the system of science, in particular of higher education

_ This was followed by a period of political reforms in science and higher education - accompanied by a reduction in funding.

_ In the phase of the German Unification, the Wissenschaftsrat laid the foundation for the development of high-quality scientific institutions in East Germany. It assessed the majority of the extra-university establishments of the GDR and elaborated numerous recommendations for the future structure of higher education in the east

At the beginning of the 21st century, research, technology and scientific education and training are not only universally considered to be important in their own right, but also indispensable for the national economy as well as for industry and employment. Altogether, the number of students at German universities has increased eight-fold over the last four decades; likewise, the number of professorships has also grown considerably. In addition, a differentiated sector with countless extra-university research institutions has come into existence. At the same time, the scientific community is confronted with a number of demands:

_ Increasing the efficiency of research and teaching (at a time of stagnating funds), not least by implementing lasting reforms to institutional structures;

_ Strengthening international competitiveness against the backdrop of globalisation of knowledge generation and transfer;

_ Optimising the innovative drive of the science system by improving cooperation between publicly-financed research and the private sector, and by intensifying international cooperation.

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