The University of Göttingen has set up seven Courant Research Centres within the framework of its Institutional Strategy funded in the first program phase of the German Excellence Initiative. The centres take an interdisciplinary approach to address innovative research topics. External experts were involved in the process to identify these topics. Each Courant Research Centre offers excellent working conditions for up to three junior research groups. Supported by senior colleagues, the junior groups are dedicated to studying specific aspects of the centre’s overarching theme.
The Courant Research Centres derive their name from the mathematician Richard Courant. Shortly before his death, he was asked about the unique human and scientific spirit that characterizes his Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University. Courant’s answer was, “It is Göttingen. Göttingen is here.” This “Göttingen spirit” is the expression for a research environment that is based on cooperation and a free exchange of ideas both within and between the disciplines.
This novel concept has proven successful in attracting excellent scientists and scholars from all over the world to the Göttingen Campus. Junior research group leaders are offered junior professorships with tenure-track options. These positions were particularly attractive to female researchers since they provide a reliable career path, support for dual career couples and measures designed to better reconcile work and family life. 53% of junior research group leaders appointed in the Courant Research Centres were female.
Following a positive evaluation in the sixth year of their professorship, the professors are permanently integrated into their respective faculties. Each centre’s goal is to develop into an interdisciplinary research unit or provide the basis for a joint research project that is third-party funded.
The Courant research centres have proven a viable tool to establish and further develop new research foci. The university intends to set up another Courant Research Centres in 2014. Its theme has been selected from among six concepts brought forward by scientists from several faculties and non-university research institutions at the Göttingen Campus.