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Organisation and procedure

The German Council of Science and Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat, WR) is an important instrument of cooperative federalism for the advancement of science in Germany. The scientists and figures of public life in its ranks work at equal level with representatives of the Federal Government and the Länder governments, maintaining a continuous dialogue between the scientific community and policy-makers on the central issues concerning the German science system. In this way the Wissenschaftsrat mediates not only between scientists and policymakers, but also – in line with the federal structure of German politics – between the Federal Government and the Länder governments.

The Wissenschaftsrat is funded by the Federal Government and the governments of the 16 Länder. It consists of two commissions, the Scientific Commission and the Administrative Commission, which meet in the Plenary Assembly to take decisions concerning the adoption of recommendations and reports, in particular.

The Scientific Commission has 32 members. They are appointed by the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, with 24 scientists jointly proposed by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science (MPG), the German Rectors' Conference (HRK), the Helmholtz Association of National Research Centres (HGF), the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft (FhG), the Leibniz Association (WGL) and eight eminent public figures jointly proposed by the Federal Government and the Länder governments. The scientists appointed to the Wissenschaftsrat are not expected to represent the interests of any specific discipline, institution or organisation, but to bring scientific excellence combined with competence and experience in matters of science policy.

The Administrative Commission has 22 members, with the representatives of the 16 Länder having one vote each, and the six representatives of the Federal Government a total of 16 votes.

As a result, the Plenary Assembly holds 54 members with a total of 64 votes. All resolutions of the Wissenschaftsrat are taken in the Plenary Assembly and have to be adopted by a two-thirds majority. Consequently, there is a strong incentive to seek consensus.

The Wissenschaftsrat is headed by the chair, who is elected for one year and may be re-elected, provided they continue their membership in the Wissenschaftsrat. The chair represents the Wissenschaftsrat in its dealings with external parties.

The Plenary Assembly adopts annual programmes of work. Accordingly, committees and working groups composed of members of both Commissions and, usually, additional external experts from Germany and abroad are set up to work on the individual projects on the respective programme. Their task is to prepare draft documents for final discussion and assessment by the Scientific Commission and eventual adoption by the Plenary Assembly. The Commissions and the Plenary Assembly normally meet four times a year.

The recommendations and reports of the Wissenschaftsrat are published and can be obtained through its Secretariat. More recent recommendations and reports (normally dating from 1998 or later) are also available as download from this website.

The Plenary Assembly, both commissions and the committees and working groups are supported by the Secretariat with its staff of about 100, headed by the Secretary General of the Wissenschaftsrat. The Wissenschaftsrat has its seat in Berlin. The Secretariat is located in Cologne: 

Brohler Straße 11
50968 Cologne, Germany
Tel   +49 (0)221 3776-0
Fax  +49 (0)221 38 84 40
post(at)wissenschaftsrat.de
www.wissenschaftsrat.de

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