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  • The title of the article published on Nature is catchy “The secret to Germany’s scientific excellence” and a great part of it is all about praising Germany but fortunatly the author also wrote about some not so brigth aspects of German science: "Few scientists in Germany see the country leaping back to the very top of the scientific world. For one thing, the German language can be off-putting — even though English is generally spoken in the country’s labs these days. The regulations and need for form-filling frustrate many. And, says Krull, “Germany is still somewhat risk-averse. Radical, disruptive innovation is less common here.”What’s more, the country has much to do to improve the representation of women in research. At research institutions, the proportion of women in top scientific positions has risen from a dismal 4.8% in 2005 to a still-meagre 13.7% in 2016. At universities, the share of women holding top-level academic positions has gone from 10% in 2005 to 17.9% in 2014. That still falls well below the average for the European Union. And things hardly look better in industry; Schendel is one of only 3 female board members out of 160 at the country’s top 30 technology companies."

    The article also includes an interesting testimony of Oliver G. Schmidt, director at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden, and professor at the Chemnitz University of Technology: "Scientists in Germany waste too much time applying for project money, given that only a small percentage of proposals are actually granted. Then there’s the time spent on peer reviewing the exploding number of proposals and initiatives for excellence. All in all, scientists — hired to use their creative minds to come up with innovative ideas— lose thousands of hours in this way. Worse, big funding programmes and evaluation panels are in thrall to major research trends and shy away from radical approaches…. High-tech start-up firms have not made it into the list of Germany’s top 100 companies for decades. What a difference compared with the United States, where young companies such as Alphabet (the parent company of Google) are dominant… Bureaucracy, a typical German problem, has crept deep into the workings of research institutions. A time-recording scheme might make sense for someone in clerical work, but it doesn’t help a scientist. And how can the country attract the best talent from around the world if proposals must be written in German, as several funding agencies demand?"

    The article also praises the patent record of Germany (list below) is far from the one of Netherlands and of Luxembourg. Germany science also shows a disappointing performance on the Research and Innovation program Horizon 2020 (two lists below). And the recent report of the Independent High Level Group on Maximising the Impact of UE Research &Innovation Programmes is very clear about the shortcomings of European Science as a whole where German science represents a great part http://ec.europa.eu/research/evaluations/pdf/archive/other_reports_studies_and_documents/hlg_2017_report.pdf. In the introduction one can read the following: “The EU trails well behind many trading partners when it comes to innovation. It spends less than half as much on business R&D as a share of GDP compared to South Korea and the share of value added in high-tech manufacturing is half the South Korean average. The EU produces three times less quality patent applications than Japan. The amount of venture capital available in the EU is at least five times lower than in the US; the number of fast-growing start-ups, so-called unicorns, is equally five times lower”

    EPO applications per million of population/R&D expenditure as percentage of GDP 1-Luxembourg....628 2-Netherlands....202 3-Finland...........114 4-Sweden.........110 5-Denmark.......110 6-Germany.......108 7-Ireland.............99 8-Cyprus………..83 9-Belgium...........78 10-Austria...........76 11-France...........71 12-Spain.............49 13-Spain.............49 14-Italy...............48 15-UK.................48 16-Slovenia........26 17-Estonia...........23 18-Portugal.........12 19-Poland............11 20-Latvia..............10 21-Lithuania........10 22-Czech Rep.......9 23-Hungary….......8 24-Greece............7 25-Slovakia..........6 26-Croatia............4 27-Bulgaria...........3 26-Romania..........1

    1-Cyprus............200 euro per capita of funding in H2020/R&D expenditure as percentage of GDP 2-Luxembourg.....86 3-Ireland.............61 4-Malta................57 5-Netherlands......56 6-Greece..............51 7-Belgium............42 8-Spain................38 9-Estonia.............37 10-UK..................34 11-Denmark..........34 12-Slovenia..........33 13-Finland.............33 14-Latvia.............32 15-Portugal..........31 16-Sweden............27 17-Austria.............25 18-Italy...............24 19-Germany.........17 20-France............17 21-Hungary.........11 22-Slovakia..........11 23-Croatia............11 24-Lithuania..........9 25-Romenia..........8 26-Czech Rep........8 27-Bulgaria...........7 28-Poland.............6

    1-Cyprus............15 ERC grantees per million population//R&D expenditure as percentage of GDP 2- Netherlands.......9 3-Luxembourg.......8 4-UK.....................7 5-Ireland...............6 6-Denmark............4 7-Finland...............4 8-Belgium.............4 9-Spain................4 10-Sweden............3 11-Austria..............3 12-Germany...........3 13-France..............3 14-Portugal............3 15-Malta...............3 16-Croatia.............3 17-Italy.........2 18-Estonia............1 19-Hungary...........1 20-Czech Rep........1 21-Greece............1 22-Romenia........0.4 23-Lithuania........0.3 24-Slovenia........0.2 25-Poland..........0.2 26-Latvia.............0 27-Slovakia..........0 28-Bulgaria...........0

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