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Cottrell Scholar Program Goes Transatlantic


The German-American Fulbright Commission has formed a working partnership with Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA), a U.S.-based private philanthropy, to create a Cottrell Fulbright Scholars Program in Germany.

Rolf Hoffmann, executive director of the German-American Fulbright Commission, said the German Science and Technology community and the supporting ministry strongly emphasized the institution of such a program because academic-based research in Germany still tends to lack a special emphasis on teaching.

“There are hardly any special programs supporting young academics to qualify in teaching jointly with research,” Hoffmann noted.

He said a subsequent conversation with the German Ministry of Education and Research and Cottrell Scholar Eberhard Bodenschatz, of the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, headquartered in Göttingen, Germany, led him to study RCSA’s competitive Cottrell Scholar program. It began in 1994 and has produced more than 250 Scholars, mostly in the U.S. Cottrell Scholars are outstanding teacher-scholars who conduct both high-quality research and excellent educational activities.

“We’ve concluded that the Cottrell award is a great way of providing incentives to prepare young academics for their role as teachers and scholars,” Hoffman said.

RCSA President Robert Shelton said, “RCSA is delighted to assist our German colleagues in developing outstanding teacher-scholars. We look forward to developing synergies in the teaching of science, as well as advancing a vigorous spirit of interdisciplinary inquiry among faculties internationally.”

RCSA Program Director Silvia Ronco said a number of factors are being addressed as the new program takes shape. They include developing guidelines on the formal use of the name for Cottrell-Fulbright Scholars; establishing criteria for selection of the Scholars that include both original research and innovative teaching components; instituting a method of peer review; and defining the financial obligations of the Fulbright Program and RCSA.

“With RCSA’s guidance in mind, we plan to set up a comparable Cottrell Scholar process in Germany,” Hoffman said. “We would like to reach out to former Cottrell Scholars residing in Germany so that they may assist us with the recruitment and selection.”

Two potential Cottrell Fulbright Scholars will be selected in the premier round of the German program, Hoffman said, adding, “We intend to send the dossiers of the two successful German nominees to RCSA’s board of directors for them to acknowledge our nominations.”

The largest and most varied of the Fulbright programs worldwide, the German-American Fulbright Commission has sponsored more than 45,000 Germans and Americans since its inception in 1952.

Hoffman said the Fulbright Commission Germany today has more than 30 different types of programs addressing U.S. and German students, scholars and researchers. “Most of them are in fact non-traditional Fulbright programs supplementing the regular Fulbright grant programs, and many are supported by soft money raised from sources other than the German or U.S. government to serve special groups, topics, markets or institutions on both sides of the Atlantic.”

RCSA is America’s second-oldest private philanthropy, founded in 1912. During the past century, RCSA has provided support to thousands of early career researchers in the physical sciences – chemistry, physics, astronomy and closely related fields. It supports research independently proposed by college and university faculty members, convenes conferences and actively advocates for science advancement.

RCSA’s Shelton noted the foundation has long been a strong supporter of improvements in science education.


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