Geographies of international scientific exchange in their political context: the case of visiting scholars to Germany in the second half of the 20th century

2014-11-12T13:22:20Z (GMT) by Heike Jons
This paper examines the history and geography of international academic mobility to Germany in the second half of the 20th century by using the example of the Fellowship Programme of the German-based Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Drawing upon recent writings on international scientific relations and the geography of science, the essay explores how the number of visiting scientists and scholars as well as the related geographic and disciplinary patterns have developed over time, and how potential variations in numbers, regional patterns and disciplines are related to world politics, different national political agendas, socio-economic conditions and the international attractiveness of research in Germany. The focus is on a discussion of three interrelated developments in their political, economic and scientific contexts: Firstly, a growth in number and change in profile of applicants and Humboldt Fellows in the first four decades of sponsorship, followed by a decline in the number of applications and fellows since the end of the Cold War. Secondly, a shift in subjects from an emphasis on the humanities to a dominance of the natural sciences and engineering. Thirdly, a growing number of the researchers’ home countries and a shift in regional patterns of origin. Based on a particular focus on the development of scientific relations with Russia and East Central Europe, it is illustrated that international scientific interaction is strongly mediated by varying political, economic, cultural and scientific contexts in the home and the host country as well as by subject-related collaborative cultures, thus lacking an inherent international or global dimension. It is pointed out, however, that the relationship between international scientific exchange and politics is not a simple one. The essay concludes by discussing its findings in regard to the spatial dimension of scientific work and interaction.