I received five somewhat random review requests this morning, from the same journal, suggesting to me that the editor finds it hard to acquire reviewers for submissions. I pity the editor and feel bad for them (but they really should stop working for Elsevier). In any case, I five times essentially provided the same response, which is:
Germany is the best place I know to be a professor if you value your independence. Your rights have been codified in the German Basic Law (Constitution) and no dean can tell you what to do. You are your own person.
On the downside, German professors and universities have been (for the most part) blissfully ignorant of how the rest of the world evaluates universities. Common sentiments in computer science are that “Journal publications are for wimps, real researchers publish in the leading conferences” and “University evaluations? Those are all fraudulent, focusing on crappy criteria that have no connection with reality”.
Some of these critiques are proper. For example, almost all German universities are public universites and many have a unique and positive symbiosis with industry, fueling Germany’s economic growth—where is that being accounted for in these rankings? But for the most part, Germany’s hesitance to join the international ranking game has been harmful.
Occasionally companies approach me with the following proposal: If I’m willing to supervise one of their employees for an external Ph.D. thesis, they’ll pay into my University budget an annual lump sum, typically something like EUR 10000. I almost always reject such proposals, unless I can change some of the critical terms, because these proposals are highly problematic. To understand this, please follow along.
The company does the following math: They’ll hire someone with a recent Master’s degree, typically for a research project at the company and on a contractor basis. Then, they’ll promise the contractor that he or she can use some of their time to complete a dissertation, because they argue the project will provide enough research substance. To prove this, they’ll use the professor to confirm to the contractor that they will take them on as a Ph.D. student. A going rate for such type of contractor is (a surprisingly low) EUR 2000 per month. Times twelve months + the professor’s lump sum makes EUR 34000 per year for the company (ignoring company overhead). The official cost of a Ph.D. student at a Bavarian University is EUR 75000. Voila, the company just saved EUR 41000 a year (ignoring other University costs). However, the contractor is much worse off, because no social duties are being paid for them.