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Research Profile

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A space for good answers

Goethe University has sharpened its research profile – it wants to bundle its expertise more effectively and further foster its potential.

When experts from archaeology, physics and medicine discuss questions. When linguists, computer scientists and legal scholars engage in lively debates in workshops. When researchers from all disciplines come together and are curious for “more”, there must be a special reason. In the case of Goethe University Frankfurt, this was the decision to sharpen the university’s research profile: How can we pool and enhance the content and excellence of our research in such a way that our contribution to understanding the world becomes clear? And how can we become even more visible as a catalyst for social development, sustainability and justice in the 21st century?

Since 2018, a large group of people has been involved in this development: individual researchers and scientists from collaborative networks, from large as well as small subjects. Administrative staff were also involved. In extensive discussions, there was wrangling over milestones; external consultants accompanied the process.

At the beginning of 2021, the results were incorporated in the University Development Plan as the first milestone. Six profile areas characterise the university’s research profile: Orders & Transformations; Space, Time & Matter; Molecular & Translational Medicine; Structure & Dynamics of Life; Sustainability & Biodiversity; Universality & Diversity. Behind the titles lie fascinating research topics and complex structures.

Our profile is an inventory and a project for the future in one: it illustrates the research performance of Goethe University Frankfurt. It shows the topics on which the university is conducting internationally visible research and the many ways in which the faculties are networked with each other and with non-university research institutions. It also shows, however, the thematic areas where there is considerable potential for innovation, from which further research questions will develop. In this context, it corresponds to the university’s belief that the most important questions can only be answered in an interdisciplinary way.

The profile areas gain their strength from the boldness and a love of experimentation with which they are actively “lived”.

Fostering potential, addressing new questions: the profile areas gain their strength from the fact that they are continuing their dynamic development. That they are open to ideas which evolve out of the respective subjects, interdisciplinary dialogue and the dialogue with society. And that they are actively “lived” with boldness and a love of experimentation. A newly formed “International Scientific Advisory Board” is to accompany this development from an unbiased, external perspective. The dynamic development of the profile areas is embedded in the overall strategy, which links them to other activities at the university, such as professorial appointments or internationalisation.

In each profile area there is – in addition to various centres and research networks – at least one excellence cluster in which scientists are working on a major research topic in an interdisciplinary team, often in cooperation with partners from the alliance of Rhine-Main Universities (RMU) or the region. Three of these cluster projects have been funded by the State of Hesse and the university since 2021, three others are funded from the university’s own budget, and a seventh is financed from its own funds. The eighth is the Excellence Cluster Cardio-Pulmonary Institute, in which we are already conducting research together with colleagues from the University of Giessen and the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research.

In 2023, universities in Germany can apply again for the Excellence Strategy of the federal and state governments. By 2026, a decision will be made as to which outstanding research projects will be funded. With its profile and as one of the strongest research universities in Germany, Goethe University Frankfurt will participate with those cluster projects that fit the call criteria. After all, the Excellence Strategy is not the right format for every type of research and every research question.

Which framework can be the best alternative for the other research clusters? Exchange within the profile areas offers precisely the space for providing a good answer for each of the research projects.

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