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Sub-project 5: Consequences of restrictions to inclusion for scientists from the GDR

Consequences of restrictions to inclusion for scientists from the GDR

Team: Jochen Gläser (Technische Universität Berlin, Leitung), Grit Laudel (Technische Universität Berlin), Caroline Bauer (Technische Universität Berlin)

In contrast to the GDR‘s economy (TP4), its scientific research was constrained by insufficient  resources and barriers to communication, which slowed down and isolated knowledge production.

The aim of TP5 is to identify the effects of these constraints and of their disappearance in the early 1990s on the content of research, the status, and the careers of East German scientists.


Retrospective analyses of the GDR’s science and its fate during and after the process of German unification have clearly identified the barriers to the full inclusion of the GDR’s scientists into international scientific communities. Main constraints included insufficient financial resources and outdated equipment, the state’s weak interest in publications, and the suppression of travel to and from the West. (Mayntz 1992, 1994; Gläser and Meske 1996; Kocka and Mayntz 1998; Laudel and Gläser 2001). However, it was not yet possible to study the mid- and long-term consequences of these constraints for the content of research and the careers of GDR scientists (for immediate consequences see e.g. Pasternack 2001).

Investigating the disappearance of barriers to inclusion and the resulting trajectories of researchers’ integration in their scientific communities provides insights into the actual effects of these barriers. This is of both theoretical and political interest because a larger number of national science systems produces material or political barriers to inclusion. Science systems featuring such barriers include, among others, the Spanish system under Franco, African science systems suffering from insufficient resources, and the politically constrained Chinese science system. So far, the effects of barriers to inclusion and their disappearance are not well understood. In its investigation of long-term consequences of the GDR’s science policy, our project contributes to a comparative perspective on this problem.

The project’s main empirical challenge is the variance of conditions for research in the GDR. Material constraints varied between fields and in part between regions (e.g. Berlin institutes of the Academy of Sciences being better equipped). Politically motivated restrictions varied between researchers. This is why the project combines three empirical strategies:

1) The barriers to inclusion can be reconstructed from interviews that were conducted in the early 1990s for a larger number of researchers (Gläser and Meske 1996, Meske et al. 1997, Gläser 1998). Research biographies can be reconstructed bibliometrically (see Gläser and Laudel 2015 for the method). Archival studies will be used to complement findings from interviews.

2) Biographical interviews will be conducted with researchers who began their careers in the GDR and still are active researchers.

3) Bibliometric methods will be used to reconstruct researchers’ changing integration into their scientific communities.

The selection of fields for the empirical investigation has in part been pre-empted by previous studies. Fields for additional analyses will be selected to cover variations in resource intensity and in the dynamics of methodological development. International comparisons will be realised through international workshops.

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