News Focus20 Years After the Wall

Aufbau Ost: Max Planck's East German Experiment

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Science  06 Nov 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5954, pp. 788-791
DOI: 10.1126/science.326_788

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After the fall of the Berlin wall, an ambitious effort by the then–West German Max Planck Society to seed topflight research institutes throughout formerly communist East Germany known as Aufbau Ost—the phrase means "building up the East"—resulted in 20 new outposts of the society within 7 years, several in fields that had been dormant in Germany for a generation. But the success of Max Planck's Aufbau Ost wasn't quick and easy, and it isn't complete. Some of the new institutes struggled for years, particularly those burdened with researchers inherited from the East German system or with founding directors who didn't click. And the overall influence of these research oases hasn't yet spread as far as some had hoped. The region's universities, which after reunification underwent a more gradual reformation than the East German Academies, still lag behind their western counterparts. And eastern Germany's industrial base, which largely started from scratch 2 decades ago, still struggles.