Blog series #2: The immune response in severe COVID-19 cases

Dr. Marta Ferreira-Gomes is a postdoc at DRFZ – German Rheumatism Research Center Berlin and does research on B cells. In her studies on severe courses of COVID-19 she encountered an unexpected feature of the immune response.

Name / Institute:
Dr. Marta Ferreira-Gomes
DRFZ – German Rheumatism Research Centre Berlin
Leibniz Section C

Research topic:
Maintenance of memory B cells

Main featured instrument or technique:
Single cell sequencing

“I analyzed how B cells from severe COVID-19 patients react to SARS-CoV-2 infection”

Why did you decide to stay in academia after your PhD?

I am just passionate about my work. The idea of contributing to new knowledge pushes me to always do more. And there is rarely real boredom with new projects constantly coming up, which makes it an exciting job. So despite the many challenges we have in academia, I keep wanting to go on.

What was your main research topic in the last 1-2 years before spring 2020?

The focus of my research is how memory B cells – cells that preserve memory on how to produce antibodies against antigens they have encountered – are maintained for long-lasting protection. In order to achieve this, I look at different aspects of these cells such as their generation mechanism, heterogeneity, migration capacity and specificity.

What are the main findings of your work on COVID; and did the results surprise you?

In our study, we analyzed B cells from severe COVID-19 patients that required prolonged intensive care. Because B cells are imprinted by the different proteins present on the site of activation, they are perfect sensors of the ongoing immune reaction. What we could conclude was that in severe COVID-19 cases, B cells start by being imprinted by interferons (proteins released in response to viruses) but with time they become predominantly influenced by TGF-beta, which leads to the production of IgA antibodies. Surprisingly, these antibodies do not target the virus nor do they relocate to the lungs of patients, which means that SARS-CoV-2 triggers a response that no longer targets itself.

Is there any indication what function these IgA antibodies have?

We speculate that these IgA antibodies actually recognize self-antigens – like in autoimmunity. Supporting our hypothesis, more recent studies have indeed described autoantibodies in patients with life-threatening COVID-19.

How has COVID affected your life?

By being involved in this COVID-19 research project, the main change for me was – lots of work! Because patient samples usually arrive later in the day, this meant longer and more unpredictable hours in the lab. But I am a bit of a workaholic, so this made the pandemic a little easier for me.

Did you find a good way to maintain the teamwork aspect during that particular time, or did part of that get lost?

This project was highly dependent on team work, so it only highlighted its importance. While everyone did their part on their own (hygiene rules applying), there was constant communication so that everything would run smoothly between sample preparation and analysis. And the fact that time was of importance really pushed us to look for who had the expertise rather than establishing several new methods ourselves. This also led to fruitful collaborations between working groups and with other institutions.

You have managed to hook your research into the incalculable emerging pandemic. What is your advice for postdocs that want to embrace such a challenging research topic?

It is an extremely competitive topic, so the only advice I have is to embrace it with as much urgency as fighting COVID-19 needs.

What would be the one take-home message of your research?

In severe cases of COVID-19, the SARS-CoV2 triggers a chronic immune response that does not contribute to immunity against the virus itself.

How does your perfect day off work look like?

Definitely spent having a nice lunch or dinner out with friends! I hope we can soon do that again with no pandemic looming around us.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to Dr. Marta Ferreira-Gomes for supporting our new blog interview format with active participation.

Find out more about Dr. Marta Ferreira-Gomes and her work:

Blog series #1: The Digitalization of Working Worlds

Dr. Alice Melchior is a postdoc at GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences and does research on digitalization. In her research on the digitalization of working worlds, she finds connections to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first part of our blog interview, she explains constraints in which digitalization is embedded.

Name / Institute:
Dr. Alice Melchior
GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences Department: Knowledge Exchange & Outreach
Leibniz Section B

Research topic:
The Digitalization of Working Worlds

Main featured instrument or technique:
Qualitative interviews and observations

“I am restraining myself to mostly virtual interactions like classic video conferencing, online pub quizzes, and virtual workouts.”

How has COVID affected your life?

The current pandemic constrains my empirical work in the field, especially in terms of the necessary observations of daily work routines. Since we are comparing the logistics with the healthcare sector, virtually conducted interviews with various actors are hard to obtain. On a more personal level, I moved during the pandemic and started a new job, which brought its own hiccups.

What was your main research topic in the last 1-2 years before spring 2020?

Over the past 1-2 years, I have investigated how creative processes are organized in the music and pharmaceutical industries. I have examined virtual communication and the valuation of ideas. A notable result was that negative valuations are an indispensable driving force for creativity.

What are the main findings of your work; and did the results surprise you?

Simultaneous interaction through on- and offline media leads to different needs and requirements such as availability and response presence. Each communication tool implies an expected feedback time frame, i.e., direct response in a call or a physical meeting, usually a few minutes in a chat, and maybe two days for an email. Consequently, the interaction partner has a response presence. Being available, in a meeting, or absent can be conveyed via status indicators. These changes in the way we communicate can be condensed to the following phrase: “Being aware” supersedes “Being there”. However, the generation of artistic content or scientific knowledge is still surprisingly strongly anchored and embedded in local situations despite the digitalization of work.

What local situations can these be precisely, and to what extent is the digitalization of work related to COVID?

While one might expect that the digitalization allows to standardize processes to facilitate delocalized implementations, I have ascertained that this very possibility reinforces the local context, e.g., in terms of legitimacy. Despite an experiment having a rigorous protocol, its result is not independent of the local context as slight variations in equipment, staff, and knowledge networks affect the outcome. While it might be a bit extreme as an example, a result obtained in a university lab is commonly higher valued than a garage-project outcome despite the digital enablement.

COVID revealed that tasks like planning, administration, and coordination can be digitalized effectively while others can or should not. In the healthcare sector, the patient itself cannot be digitalized and the digitalization of patient care is constrained by, e.g., ethical considerations.

You have managed to hook your research into the incalculable emerging pandemic. What is your advice for postdocs that want to embrace such a challenging research topic?

My already forward-oriented research gained additional attention due to COVID-19. If I were to give advice, it would be that if you are investigating a forward-looking topic, then you should stick to it – your time will come.

What would be the one take-home message of your research?

Virtual communication should not be understood as a secondary mode of interaction, but rather as an interaction context with its very own requirements and constraints but also unique opportunities.

How does your perfect day off work look like?

My perfect day off work starts with a half-day bike tour on my own enjoying the nature on a bright day. Then, I spend some time in my hammock with a coffee before meeting friends for beers.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to Dr. Alice Melchior for supporting our new blog interview format with active participation.

Find out more about Dr. Alice Melchior and her work:

Putting Leibniz-Postdocs in the spotlight. An introduction to our blog series

In February 2021 we published our call for contributions to a new blog series. The aim of this series is to showcase the diversity of excellent research that postdocs at Leibniz institutes have been contributing to illuminate the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences. This week we are going to start our series with the first interview. Thanks to the enthusiastic feedback from our fellow Leibniz postdocs we have several more interviews in the pipeline that will be published on this site in the coming weeks and months.

Before we start highlighting the fascinating work by our colleagues we want to lay out the reasoning behind this series in more detail here. The idea and motivation that sparked this series was to highlight contributions by those people that are crucial for carrying out the research on lab benches or before computer screens but are much less in the spotlight compared to professors. For many of them, including researchers from various Leibniz Institutes like Clemens Fuest or Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, the pandemic meant they were pushed into the public spotlight like scientists have never been before. Of course we notice that some professors use their public platform to highlight that science today is largely a team sport. Among many positive examples Professor Dirk Brockmann released a 9-minute video where he praises his team of junior researchers and student assistants. Moreover, those scientists in the media spotlight have also garnered an enormous amount of social media followers. For instance, Christian Drosten from Charité Berlin has now more than 750,000 followers on Twitter. Notably, on social media there are also junior researchers giving insights into their work during the pandemic. One prominent example is Emma Hodcroft, an evolutionary virologist at the University of Berne in Switzerland. She has more than 63,000 followers on Twitter and uses her platform for extensive science communication around the phylogenetics and evolution of SARS-CoV2. In a news piece in Science in March 2021 she was quoted “I am precariously employed; I don’t have a long-term job. I feel a lot of pressure that this is my opportunity and I cannot waste that” and we think this quote is an excellent segway into our series.

With the following interviews and profiles of postdocs at the Leibniz Association we want to showcase the diversity of disciplines represented at Leibniz and how researchers with various backgrounds are trying to help us understand this exceptional situation. We also want to highlight that professional scientists who are not professors not only exist but are in fact main creators of knowledge in academic research.

We hope you enjoy our series. Please follow us on Twitter and/or LinkedIn to receive regular updates about our output.

PS: to learn more about how academic expertise has been communicated during the pandemic in Germany we recommend this recent preprint by researchers from the Department of Science Communication at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

Invitation to a Panel Discussion on Sustainable Research

The recent changes to our environment caused by human activities are undeniable and have already led to an unprecedented rate of climate change and decline in biodiversity. Furthermore, those changes unproportionally affect vulnerable communities and feed into social injustice. We, therefore, carry a social responsibility to acknowledge the global climate and biodiversity crisis as the currently most crucial threat to the future of our planet.

Guided by the political frame of reference by the United Nations Sustainable Development goals (2015), higher education facilities like the Leibniz Association have to play a significant role in addressing our current climate challenges through their research and through educating and spreading awareness.

Therefore, the Leibniz Association is inclined to develop a “culture of sustainability” that continuously reflects on the environmental impact of our activities and research to promote global social justice. 

This road to a “culture of sustainability” is long. To lay the foundations for sustainable developments within the Leibniz Association, the working group Sustainability of the Leibniz PhD and PostDoc Networks is organizing an online seminar series.

We would like to invite you to participate in our first online seminar:

Sustainable Research – What can WE do and where do WE start?

On the 2nd of June, 2021 4.00 – approx. 5.30pm on Zoom.

Here, we want to discuss with you what role sustainability should play in research in general and in the Leibniz Association in particular. To start the discussion and to identify potential fields of action, like implementing grassroot initiatives at individual institutes while also promoting administrative actions and developing new policies, we have invited four experts on sustainability as panelists:

Diana Born, atmosfair gGmbH
“Imagine you wake up in a sustainable world: how does it feel, how do you act? To me, sustainability means to envision such a system, feel the joy it gives me and use this motivation as fuel to pull it closer every day.”

​​​Juliane Schumacher, Leibniz Institute Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO)
“For me, Sustainability means working in solidarity for a just, livable and durable future. Sustainability means respect – for other humans, now and in future, and beyond humans, for the planet and all its inhabitants.” 

Falk Schmidt, German Science Platform Sustainability 2030
“Sustainability is at its core about providing current and future generations with at least the same if not more options / alternatives for living a decent life in an autonomous way.”

Andreas Otto, Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IÖR) and Leibniz Arbeitskreis Sustainability Management
“We must firmly anchor the guiding principle of sustainable development in all our activities, not only through research topics, but in the entire work process and operational organisation of scientific institutions. To quote the Leibniz Association’s Sustainability Mission Statement, it is therefore important to establish and continuously develop a ‘culture of sustainability’.”

We therefore would like to invite you to take part in our discussion and to play an active role in shaping our working group’s goals towards a sustainable future of the Leibniz Association.

If you are interested in joining the discussion, you can register here.

We look forward to our discussion, to hearing your ideas, and in the long run, to creating a “culture of sustainability” within and outside of the Leibniz Association.

Kind wishes,

Your working group Sustainability of the Leibniz PhD & PostDoc Networks

Call for Workshops

The Leibniz PostDoc Network is excited to announce the initiation of a new funding scheme aimed at providing training opportunities for postdocs within our network. As permanent positions are increasingly requiring skills that are outside the normal academic requirements, many auxiliary skills (soft skills) are needed in order to be successful. These can range from project/budget management and science communication skills to supervising junior researchers or engage in website design or marketing of your research. As such, we are soliciting workshop proposals on skills you feel would benefit you and the greater Leibniz PostDoc Community. Note: Unfortunately, we cannot fund workshops on specific research topics (e.g., topics that focus on your individual research).

Who? All postdocs currently working at any Leibniz Institute are eligible to apply.

What? We plan to fund workshops that are of help to the broader community of the Leibniz PostDoc Network. These workshop ideas should include the promotion of skills that are applicable across several sections of the Leibniz Association.

When? The deadline for submissions is 28 May 2021, however applications will be processed as they are received. We are soliciting ideas for workshops to be run within the next year (21’-22’). The Leibniz PostDoc Network’s Steering Committee will assist in the development, organization, and promotion of these workshops.

Where? Due to the COVID-19 situation, these workshops will need to be planned online (via Zoom or some other media).

More Specifics:

We currently aim to fund a handful of workshops this year with a budget of up to ~1000 € each. Costs for these workshops may include money dedicated for speaker fees, a sponsored zoom license, printing costs, etc.

Initially, we will review applications and select those to be funded. One of our main selection criteria is the relevance to a large group of postdocs in more than one field. Once the proposal is accepted, we will work closely with the applying postdocs to develop their idea further. We reserve the right to combine proposals if contents overlap.

Please submit complete applications to: 

Contact: If there any questions, please contact the organizing committee of Dr. Steve Doo (), Dr. Rajini Nagrani (), Dr. Sina Fackler (), or Dr. Lydia Repke ().

Open call: new blog series highlighting research of Leibniz postdocs

UPDATE 12-03-2021: We have now closed the call and we are currently preparing the interviews. Stay tuned!

Dear Leibniz Postdocs,

one of the main goals of the Leibniz Postdoc Network is to raise the profile of postdocs working at the institutes of the Leibniz Association. Since our inaugural meeting in 2017 we have worked towards this goal establishing a new website and growing our social media channels. Adding to these and several other ongoing activities and initiatives we are currently planning to start a blog series on our website that highlights the work of postdocs more specifically. While science & research during the pandemic have been in the spotlight like never before, we almost exclusively see PIs and professors whose voices are amplified and broadcasted while the essential work that early career  researchers contribute to increase our knowledge mostly remains invisible to the public.

Our idea is to have short form interviews, a photo and one or two links to recent publications and/or websites of these individuals. As overarching topic for this blog series we plan to present a very broad range of research on the Covid-19 pandemic, spanning everything from sociology to environmental impacts to molecular biology and medicine.

If you are working or have been working on a pandemic-related topic and would be willing to answer a few questions via email we would love to hear back from you. Alternatively you can nominate a colleague who you think should be interviewed in this format. In both cases, please send your nomination by email with the subject line “WG2 Blog Interview” to .

We look forward to get this started with you!

Your working group Public Communication and Advocacy

4th Annual Meeting of the Leibniz PostDoc Network

Dear Leibniz PostDoc Network Community,

We are writing to update the community on recent events that have occurred within the Leibniz PostDoc Network.

We recently had our 4thAnnual Meeting of the Leibniz PostDoc Network online via Zoom. During the meeting, we had a great turnout of participants from more than half of the Leibniz Institutes across Germany and more than 65 participants at certain times. We were fortunate to hear from a range of speakers including Dr. Ricarda Opitz, the Vice Secretary General of the Leibniz Association, and Dr. Marvin Bähr, the Career Development Manager at the Leibniz Association. 

During parallel breakout sessions, many stimulating discussions were held regarding the issues postdocs within the Leibniz PostDoc Network face. We appreciate all the honest and thoughtful feedback about your experiences. 

As such, we have (re)established new working groups that are very excited to work with our new Steering Committee:

  1. Postdoc Survey: Dr. Gundula Zoch (LIfBi), Dr. Johannes Breuer (GESIS)
  2. Public Communication and Advocacy: Dr. Gregor Kalinkat (IGB), Dr. Christian Nehls (FZB)
  3. Network Growth and Outreach: Dr. Felix Victor Münch (HBI), Dr. Johanna Callhoff (DRFZ)
  4. Career Development and Working Conditions: Dr. Sina Fackler (LIfBi), Dr. Rajini Nagrani (BIPS) Dr. Gillian Dornan (FMP), Dr. Nathalie Topaj (ZAS)
  5. Diversity and Inclusion: Dr. Kingsly Chuo Beng (IGB), Rabea Kleymann (ZfL)
  6. Sustainability: Dr. Elif Köksoy (DSMZ)

In addition, we elected a new financial officer, and two spokespeople.

Financial Officer: Dr. Marta Ferreira-Gomes (DRFZ)

Co-Spokespeople: Dr. Lydia Repke (GESIS) and Dr. Steve Doo (ZMT).

Since the meeting, we have been working with each working group to lay out priorities for this upcoming year. We have many exciting events planned and are particularly excited to progress our goals for this year. We are welcoming to any self-identified postdoc within the network that is willing to be involved in the groups. So please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of us to find out more!

To stay up to date on our events, sign up for our listserv and follow us on Twitter (@LeibnizPostDocs) as well as on LinkedIn to keep up to date on all the current events!

All the best, 

Lydia Repke and Steve Doo

The Leibniz PostDoc Survey

As many of you might already know, the Leibniz PostDoc Survey is currently open for participation and we urge all of you current (and incoming) postdoctoral researchers at all Leibniz Institutes to fill the online form, which you got via our email listserv, if you haven’t already. In this short blog post we want to give you a little background on how the survey came about, our motivation to do it, and what we are hoping to achieve with it.

Why: Postdoctoral researchers (a.k.a. postdocs) make up an integral part of the scientific workforce in universities and research institutes around the world, and this is also true for the majority of research institutes under the roof of the Leibniz Association in Germany. Due to inherent constraints like high mobility and short-term contracts, postdocs are often less connected and organized within their institutions and countries compared to doctoral students, technical and administrative staff or tenured scientists. To improve this situation, the Leibniz PostDoc Network as an initiative of postdocs from various Leibniz Institutes was founded in 2017. While the group of postdocs is distinct from others with regard to, for example, career stage and positions, they are a heterogeneous group with diverse personal backgrounds, interests, career plans, and training needs. While there are a couple of recent studies from other countries (e.g. in the US [1,2]) and at least one institution in Germany [3] shining light on the situation of postdocs, as well as data from surveys among the doctoral students at Leibniz Institutes [4, 5], there are no systematically collected data on the working situation, career plans and needs for training opportunities of postdocs within the Leibniz Association.

What: Over the last two years, a dedicated group of natural and social scientists who are active in the Leibniz PostDoc Network (The Leibniz PostDoc Survey working group, see below for a list of all members) has prepared a survey to assess demographics, employment histories as well as future career plans and training needs for all postdocs in the Leibniz Association. Some of the questions in this survey are included to specifically address the situation of postdocs with an international background at Leibniz Institutes.

Target audience: The survey is aimed at all postdoctoral researchers working at Leibniz Institutes. While there is no universally agreed upon definition of a postdoctoral researcher, a common understanding is that they have completed their PhD but do not yet hold a professorship or already hold a postdoctoral position at their institute but are about to complete their PhD (e.g., because they did not yet defend or publish their thesis).

Goals: As the definition of the postdoc phase is somewhat fuzzy and this group is quite heterogeneous with regard to their backgrounds, working conditions, and career goals, the first objective of this survey is to gain an understanding of who the postdocs at the Leibniz Institutes are and what their needs are for their future career development. This is especially relevant for the Leibniz PostDoc Network, as we want to get a clearer picture of the people we are representing and to be able to promote appropriate support measures within the Leibniz PostDoc Network and the Leibniz Association.

Moreover, the survey will help us to assess how certain measures of the Leibniz Association are implemented on the institute level, such as which parts of the Leibniz career guidelines are now common practice for the postdocs. As Leibniz PostDoc Network, the obtained data will also help us to identify key challenges the postdocs are facing and, moving forward, also to formulate recommendations on how to address some of these challenges. In a more general outlook, the analyses of the results from the survey will likely complement recent attempts to learn more about the demographics and career paths of postdocs, thus enabling comparisons between the situation of postdocs in the Leibniz Association and those at universities in Germany [3], between postdocs in Germany and the US [1,2], and doctoral and postdoctoral researchers within the  Leibniz Association [4, 5].

The Leibniz PostDoc Survey working group consists of: Gundula Zoch (LIfBi), Johannes Breuer (GESIS), Gitta Heinz (DRFZ), Tamara Heck (DIPF), Verónica Díez Díaz (MfN), and Lydia Repke (GESIS).


[1] McConnell et al (2018): United States National Postdoc Survey results and the interaction of gender, career choice and mentor impact. eLife

[2] Grinstein & Treister (2018): The unhappy postdoc: a survey based study. F1000 Research

[3] Wagner-Baier et al (2012). Analysen und Empfehlungen zur Situation von Postdoktorandinnen und Postdoktoranden an deutschen Universitäten und insbesondere an der Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena. Report der Graduierten-Akademie, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena.

[4] Arcudi, A., Cumurovic, A., Gotter, C., Graeber, D., Joly, P., Ott, V., … Yenikent, S. (2019). Doctoral Researchers in the Leibniz Association: Final Report of the 2017 Leibniz PhD Survey.

[5] Beadle, B., Do, S., El Youssoufi, D., Felder, D., Gorenflos López, J., Jahn, A., … Weltin, M. (2020). Being a Doctoral Researcher in the Leibniz Association: 2019 Leibniz PhD Network Survey Report.

Update on COVID-19 Actions of the Leibniz PostDoc Network

Today, we want to provide you with a brief update on the recent efforts the Leibniz PostDoc Network is working on to promote the needs of postdoctoral researchers within the Leibniz Association.

A few weeks ago, our two spokespersons—Drs. Gitta Heinz and Lydia Repke—had the opportunity to speak with Leibniz Association President Prof. Mattias Kleiner and Secretary-General Dr. Bettina Böhm about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on postdoctoral researchers within the Leibniz Association. We thank the 14 researchers that answered our questions regarding their current situation and thereby helped us to prepare for the meeting. Among the main topics expressed to Prof. Kleiner and Dr. Böhm were concerns about how these unstable times would impact the feasibility of completing scheduled projects and evaluation standards for employment/ funding/ awards. We also discussed with them possible measures to address the insufficient degree of digitization at some institutes and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the research system.

Prof. Kleiner and Dr. Böhm were grateful for the open and honest conversation and wanted to highlight their support for postdoctoral researchers. Currently, they are addressing many of the concerns brought up through discussions among the Leibniz Präsidium on how to navigate this situation best. Prof. Kleiner emphasized that the continuation of research projects is not only in the interest of the individual researcher but also in the interest of the Leibniz Institutes. Therefore Prof. Kleiner is confident that most ongoing research projects can be completed and he trusts that the institutes will do their utmost to support their research staff accordingly.

As the Leibniz PostDoc Network, we intend to follow up on these topics in future discussions with Prof. Kleiner and Dr. Böhm. We always welcome input of any additional concerns that you as Leibniz PostDocs feel need to be addressed.

Communication of Leibniz President Prof. Kleiner concerning the situation of early career scientists during the COVID-19 pandemic

Leibniz President Prof. Kleiner addressed a constructive statement to all Leibniz Institutes’ directors on 30 May 2020:

Betreff: Zur Situation junger Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler

Liebe Kolleginnen und Kollegen aus den Leitungen der Leibniz-Einrichtungen,

die Covid19-Pandemie und die Maßnahmen zu ihrer Eindämmung stellen uns alle vor ungewohnte Herausforderungen. Für junge Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler – und vor allem diejenigen mit Kindern und Pflegeaufgaben – stellt die Situation eine besonders große Belastung dar, die zum Teil ihre wissenschaftlichen Karrieren massiv behindert. Die erheblichen Einschränkungen treffen offenbar mit besonderer Härte Frauen, wie nicht nur in der öffentlichen Diskussion, sondern auch anhand wissenschaftlicher Debattenbeiträge – u.a. aus Leibniz-Instituten wie dem WZB, SOEP oder DIW – deutlich wird.

Jüngere Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler mit befristeten Verträgen haben es unter Pandemie-Bedingungen sehr viel schwerer, ihre Qualifizierungsphasen fristgerecht abzuschließen, sich zusätzlich in der Lehre zu engagieren und – dies vor allem – zu publizieren. Die wissenschaftlichen Leistungen von Eltern, gemessen in Veröffentlichungen, Konferenzbeiträgen und Lehre, wird daher mit hoher Wahrscheinlichkeit deutlich zurückgehen.

In vielen Leibniz-Instituten werden die besonderen Schwierigkeiten der jüngeren Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler und insbesondere derjenigen mit Betreuungspflichten ernst genommen; es gibt sehr gute Beispiele konkreter Unterstützung, auch der Sprecher/innenrat des Verwaltungsausschusses hat sich bereits zu diesem Thema ausgetauscht. In besonderer Weise fühlt sich das Präsidium der Leibniz-Gemeinschaft in der Verantwortung, für Sensibilität gegenüber diesen Umständen zu werben.

Deshalb bitte ich Sie herzlich, ein besonderes Augenmerk auf die schwierige Situation der jüngeren Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler an Ihren Instituten zu richten und mögliche Unterstützungsmaßnahmen wohlwollend zu prüfen und kontinuierlich zu gewährleisten, solange sowohl die einschlägigen Verordnungen als auch mögliche individuelle Einschränkungen Bestand haben. Insbesondere sollten die Möglichkeiten in den Blick genommen werden, die die in der Übergangsregelung zum WissZeitVG vom 22.04.2020 formulierte Verlängerung der Höchstbefristungsdauer von wissenschaftlichem Personal bietet.

Außerdem sollten die besonderen Bedingungen im Zeitraum der Covid19-Pandemie – analog zu Elternzeiten – in Auswahlverfahren, bei Evaluierungen, Tenure-Entscheidungen etc. berücksichtigt werden. Dies gilt insbesondere im Hinblick auf Publikationen, Forschungsaufenthalte und Lehre.

Mit der nötigen Achtsamkeit kann es uns gemeinsam gelingen, alle unsere exzellenten jungen Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler, die in ihrer Karriereentwicklung von der Covid19-Pandemie besonders betroffen sind, zu unterstützen und ihre Kreativität und Schaffenskraft für Forschung und Wissenschaft – die in höchster Qualität gerade jetzt so wichtig sind – zu erhalten!

Sehr herzlichen Dank für Ihr hohes und umfassendes Engagement und beste Grüße sendet Ihnen

Ihr Matthias Kleiner

In summary, Prof Kleiner points out the considerable restrictions which early career scientists are confronted with during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially those with (child-)care obligations. He asks that all Leibniz Institutes take the resulting hardships seriously and offer support measures as far as possible. In particular, he suggests considering the possibility to extend the maximum duration of scientific qualification periods which is offered by a recent amendment to the WissZeitVG (the German law on fixed-term employment contracts in science). Furthermore, the special conditions in the period of the Covid-19 pandemic should be taken into account in future selection procedures, evaluations, tenure decisions etc.

We welcome this proactive communication from the President of the Leibniz Association. It is a signal not only to the institutes’ directors, but also to all early career researchers.

Your Leibniz PostDoc Network Steering Group