Colombia and Germany consolidate international research partnerships
Colombia, formerly a dangerous Latin American country plagued by crisis, is now becoming an attractive location for international research partnerships. Cooperation between Colombia and Germany in a wide variety of disciplines is opening up promising prospects for researchers from both countries.
Kidnapping, drug wars and violations of human rights used to be the dominant news topics in the international media about Colombia. The South American country’s image as politically unstable and dangerous overshadowed the work of a vibrant research community and the success stories of existing international research partnerships. Rapid change has recently begun in Colombia, however.
Thus the Colombian research support organisation COLCIENCIAS was given ministry status at the beginning of 2009 and among other things manages the country’s national fund to finance science, technology and innovation, set up in the same year. The budget is primarily used to invest in support and priority subject programmes, for example in the environmental technology and biodiversity sector. In addition, since 2012, ten per cent of mining revenue has been channelled back annually into promoting research and innovation and is managed by COLCIENCIAS.
Research initiatives become international research partnerships
Some of the research partnerships between Colombia and Germany were set up several decades ago, but were often based on the initiative of individual researchers or departments. Much greater importance is now being placed on these research partnerships. Back at the end of the 1960s, for example, marine researchers from the University of Gießen teamed up with their Colombian colleagues to set up a research institute in Santa Marta in northern Colombia; CEMarin is now one of the world’s four centres of excellence funded by the German Federal Foreign Office as part of its Research and Academic Relations Initiative.
In the electrical engineering sector, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed in 2012 between COLCIENCIAS and the German Research Foundation (DFG); the MOU focuses on joint research in the field of high-frequency technology. In addition to DFG, organisations such as the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) have identified Colombia as a priority country in Latin America.
From Hegelian philosophy to high-frequency technology
Colombian and German researchers in particular are keen to forge closer links between universities and research institutes. ‘I am very interested in creating closer links between universities in Germany and my own university in Colombia,’ remarked María del Rosario Acosta from Bogotá, for example. ‘With the help of the Humboldt Foundation, I want to organise an international conference on philosophy (probably the philosophy of Georg W. F. Hegel) in the near future.’ After completing her university degree, María del Rosario Acosta obtained a doctorate in philosophy from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in 2007 and now works as an extraordinary professor in the Department of Philosophy at Bogotá’s Universidad de los Andes. She has been working at the Cluster of Excellence on the Formation of Normative Orders at Frankfurt University since 2013 with a grant from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
More exchange programmes for pioneering research partnerships
María del Rosario Acosta is not only familiar with Colombia’s academic community, but has now also gained an in-depth knowledge of science and research in Germany too. She welcomes the positive changes that are taking place in Colombia and the growing international research partnerships. ‘Colombia’s university system is undergoing very important changes, particularly regarding graduate programmes (...) and also in relation to an increasing interest and quality in research. International cooperation is very important in both cases.’ Her own personal aim is to set up an exchange programme between the philosophy departments of the Universidad de los Andes and Frankfurt University, both for the faculties and for the students and postgraduates.
Colombia already has a new image among alumni
As far as exchange programmes are concerned, considerable achievements have already been made: Through the scholarship loan programme DAAD-COLFUTURO, for example, DAAD and the Colombian foundation COLFUTURO together provide full financial support for 50 Colombians studying for a Master’s degree in Germany. In addition, further candidates receive full funding through COLFUTURO.
German researchers who have already had the opportunity to participate in academic exchanges with Colombia have long since realised that the country’s negative image is a thing of the past. One student from Darmstadt summarised his experience as follows: ‘The first thing a lot of people think of in connection with the country is violence and civil war. Even though these times have now largely been overcome, hardly anyone talks about the positive aspects. That’s what I found so interesting about the country, and I have indeed seen a very different side to Colombia.’ (Source: Gate Germany – country profile on Colombia)Regular meetings for alumni, debates with university representatives and the promotion of joint projects between Colombia and Germany are just some of the activities organised by Colombia’s two large alumni organisations Asprea and Aspa. As a future alumna of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the option of cooperation within her field offers María del Rosario Acosta huge potential: ‘There is a vitality and a strong potential in the Colombian academic system. There is still a lot to be done, and this is also combined with the impetus and the will to do it.’
Author: Sabine Müller
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