24.06.2022, Berlin: Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP), Bundesbildungsministerin, gibt der dpa im Bundesministerium für Bildung- und Forschung ein Interview. (Zu dpa "Bildungsministerin: Schulschließungen waren ein Fehler") Foto: Carsten Koall/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

The Union faction in the Bundestag puts Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) under massive pressure with a small question about her research and innovation policy.

After their ministry, as reported, imposed a partial freeze on funding for a number of program series, for example in research on the social consequences of the corona pandemic and in the bioeconomy, the CDU/CSU parliamentary group is now asking for reasons and criteria – and for reallocations in the BMBF budget.

Which funding measures were stopped, reduced or postponed to future budget years in 2022? What system was this based on? What are the reasons for cuts in right-wing extremism research, for example? And have the cuts in bioeconomy research been coordinated with the Ministry of Agriculture?

The questions show that the Union wants to uncover far more omissions than the minister wanted to admit in a press release and also in an interview with the Tagesspiegel. Your company should now disclose the entire scope of the funding freeze – in tabular form, including the funding amount and the number of project employees affected.

Questions are also asked about stopped program lines on “Cultural Diversity, Cultural Heritage” and the joint project “PARVENUE – Civic Advancement in the Mirror of Object Culture in the 18th Century”.

Overall, the “small question”, which is available to the daily mirror, includes 71 questions on eleven pages and can be read as an attack by the Union on the FDP minister of the traffic light government.

“Between 2005 and 2021, education and research always had priority under a Union-led federal government,” says the introduction to the request, which was written by Thomas Jarzombek (CDU), the chairman of the Education and Research working group of the Union faction, as stated on request called. It is signed by the parliamentary group leader Friedrich Merz (CDU) and Alexander Dobrindt, the leader of the CSU state group.

Against the background of the dramatic energy crisis, the traffic light government has a duty to keep the promise made in its coalition agreement – ​​“dare more progress” – especially for research and innovation policy. However, this apparently “is not a priority in the BMBF under the direction of Federal Minister Stark-Watzinger”, but Germany is threatening “the current standstill (…) to fall painfully on its feet”.

One will fall behind in the international competition for technologies of the future because the “strong voice of Germany as a location for research and innovation” is missing at the cabinet table.

The fact that this was already the case with Stark-Watzinger’s predecessor Anja Karliczek (CDU), who was repeatedly criticized and considered a weak minister, is not disputed by the Union faction in its frontal attack on the incumbent federal research minister. However, Jarzombek and his team manage to raise a large number of questions that Stark-Watzinger, her state secretaries and her administration will find difficult to explain. The answers are expected in the Union faction for the end of August.

The minister had announced that the cuts were made “on the basis of the results of the science-based assessment”. In fact, in the case of the canceled projects, these reports were positive. They made a small selection from hundreds of applications. Due to initially unofficial funding commitments, those who were positive had already signed employment contracts.

In the interview, Stark-Watzinger said: “The funding is only approved once the funding notification has been delivered.” This must be communicated more clearly in the future. Instead, around 50 percent of the projects in corona research were rejected – probably due to nuances in the assessment.

The Union faction is now asking “on what scientific basis and with which system Stark-Watzinger revised the funding decisions”. And why the BMBF does not alternatively allow ongoing projects to be extended until 2024, “in order to avoid any hardships, especially for scientists, through the termination of countless qualification work, ongoing research series by natural scientists and dissemination activities by social scientists [measures to find study participants; the Red.] to cushion”? And: How the results should now be secured.

The pressure to explain on Stark-Watzinger should obviously also be generated by the question of their “new focus on content”. This was pointed out as the reason for rejection – and not “early, transparent and comprehensible”, as the questioners complain.

The parliamentary group also demands information on the thesis that is being discussed that funds that are freed up by cancellations should be diverted to the establishment of a “German Agency for Transfer and Innovation” (DATI). “If so, on what basis does the BMBF intend to use the funds as long as there is no viable DATI concept,” it says pointedly.

Furthermore, the Union asks for reasons for cuts in the DAAD’s basic funds, for the termination of international research cooperation – and for a rescue package for energy-intensive research.