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Reflections on the Dissolution of the GDR Academy of Science and the Founding of Successor Institutes (2005)

Prof. Dr. Peter Joehnk, a West German co-founder of the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research in Dresden, describes key steps in the dissolution of the GDR Academy of Sciences and offers a guardedly positive assessment of the effects of unification on East German science and research. Prof. Joehnk is currently serving as administrative director of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf.

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The Dissolution of the GDR Academy of Sciences and its Absorption into New Structures – An Example of the Transformation Process in East Germany in the Wake of Unification


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Not only did the old combines [Kombinate] of the GDR economy disappear in 1990, the academic landscape, too, was reshaped in a massive transformation process and was adapted to Western structures. The author of this article does not see himself as a historian, nor does he want to make any political assessment of the process as a whole. As a manager and participant in the process, he is focusing solely on the structure of the transformation process, on the process of preparing and making decisions, and on an analysis of the achieved results. Despite the uniqueness of the German unification process, the management mechanisms upon which it was based can be applied to other challenging cases in other countries – and that is what one can learn from this article.

When considering the chronology, readers should give particular heed to the fact that the monetary union between the FRG and the GDR took effect on July 1, 1990, and that unification officially occurred on October 3, 1990. Up to then, the laws of the GDR largely continued to apply unchanged in the East. This means that a large part of the activities listed below were banned or impermissible according to the valid law at the time.

I. Changes in the GDR Academy of Sciences [Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR or AdW]

The following major steps in the AdW conversion process were reconstructed on the basis of publicly accessible sources and internal transcripts of meetings:

January 26, 1990

AdW directors’ conference in Berlin

A declaration was drawn up that described the AdW as independent from state agencies.

March 1990

A task force presented a proposal for restructuring the AdW. The goal was to create a research community made up of individual AdW institutes, which were to be divided into sections and led by section councils. It was to be financed by the state. There was a proposal to merge those institutes whose work is of industrial relevance into a “Leibniz Society”; this was to be funded through the state budget (40%) and industrial contracts (60%).

The Max Planck Society and the Fraunhofer Society of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) strongly objected to this proposal in view of the future academic research community of united Germany.

(Bottom line: Germany does not need another academic research organization)

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