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

Immediate and long-term consequences of GDR scientists’ limited inclusion in their international scientific communities

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


Scientific research in the GDR was only partially embedded in the knowledge production of international communities. This was due to the dynamics of GDR’s international relations and domestic politics from the immediate post-war era to the late-socialist phase. The socio-political transformations brought about by German unification were based on the transfer of West German institutions to East Germany, a process which included the heavy re-structuring of the East German science and higher education system. Scientists who had the opportunity to continue their careers did so under conditions that enabled their full inclusion.

In our investigation we aim at answering the question of how research conditions of GDR scientists in the late-socialist phase influenced both the research content and the inclusion of scientists in their international communities before and after 1989.

From a history of science perspective, we will reconstruct how scientific practices were embedded into the late-socialist society of the GDR in the 1970s and 80s, and how these practices were affected by both global and domestic dynamics of political and economic conditions for research. By doing so, we hope to contribute to an understanding of that society. The project’s contribution to the sociology of sciences consists in a theory of inclusion of researchers in international knowledge production, which considers the situation of GDR’s scientists as a specific (and, in some dimensions, extreme) case of a more general phenomenon.


We combine historical and sociological methods to investigate research biographies and academic careers in mathematics, condensed matter physics, molecular biology, and chemical engineering. Research biographies are reconstructed with bibliometric methods that are supplemented by archival work. We contextualize and try to explain biographical patterns of inclusion by combining the archival sources with oral-historyinterviews with scientists.

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