The year is drawing to a close and I write to provide you with an update on some of the activities of the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows (AAvHF) in 2023 and to offer you and your loved ones season’s greetings.
Biennial Conference Publication
Following the successful biennial conference of the Australian and New Zealand Associations entitled Humboldtian Research towards a Sustainable World and held in November 2022 at Deakin University, presenters were invited to submit a paper for publication. Facilitated by AAvHF Honorary Secretary Associate Professor Trevor Finlayson, submissions have been reviewed and edited for inclusion in a special issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria. The special issue, which will be Volume 135, Parts 1 and 2, should be available online from CSIRO Publishing in December. Before publication, those members who submitted and reviewed manuscripts for the issue, will receive email advice from the editor.
Celebration of Humboldt’s Birthday
The Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows has had a long-standing tradition of celebrating Alexander von Humboldt’s birthday with dinners in capital cities across the country on or about 14 September. With the restrictions on gathering in 2020, we introduced a national online celebration of Humboldt’s birthday, and this is now an annual event. This year we gathered on Friday 15 September late in the day in Australia and in the morning in Germany. Australian Fellows were joined by members of the Humboldt Foundation in Bonn.
Our speaker on this occasion was Dr Thomas Hesse, Deputy Secretary General of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, who represented the Foundation at the biennial conference of the Australian and New Zealand Associations last year. Dr Hesse has been in this role since February 2011. Previously, he was the Head of the Foundation’s Selection Department after serving as its Programme Director and previously in the Department of Sponsorship Abroad. Dr Hesse chose the theme The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation: Recent Developments, Current Challenges, New Ideas. His presentation led to lively discussion before we concluded the gathering with a toast to Alexander von Humboldt.
New Gänßler Award
In 2022, the AAvHF received a most generous donation from Australian Humboldt Fellow Professor David Pollard. Following his Humboldt Fellowship at Bochum University, Professor Pollard had a distinguished career at Yale University in the United States where he still resides. The purpose of the donation was to recognise his mentor and Humboldt Gastprofessor, Peter Gänßler. In consultation with the Humboldt Foundation, the Association established the need to support young scholars in the Oceania region, outside Australasia, to prepare competitive Humboldt Fellowship applications. This focus has been addressed by the establishment of the Gänßler Award to sponsor promising and aspiring Humboldt Fellowship applicants from the region to attend a biennial conference of the Australian and New Zealand Associations and potentially to initiate mentorship with an Australian Fellow towards a Humboldt postdoctoral fellowship application.
I acknowledge with gratitude the work of AAvHF Deputy President Professor Jeff Malpas and Associate Professor Finlayson in developing the award criteria and promoting the award within Oceania institutions to potential applicants. Should any AAvHF member have personal research connections within Oceania tertiary institutions, I should be pleased to hear from you. Applications will be considered by the AAvHF Awards Sub-Committee, chaired by Professor Malpas, which also oversees the Association’s biennial Peter Schwerdtfeger Award to an early career researcher and our Distinguished Fellow Awards. Please also give thought to nominations for both these existing awards, for which the closing date is Friday, 5 April 2024.
FPT-Fest 2023 in Honour of Professor Mike Fellows
Professor Mike Fellows, Northern Territory representative on the AAvHF national committee, was honoured at the FTP (fixed parameter tractability)-Fest in Bergen, Norway on 12-16 June 2023. In particular, the Wednesday of the symposium was devoted to Professor Fellows and his contributions to Computer Science. He was one of the principal founders of parameterised complexity, a two-dimensional framework for complexity analysis and algorithm design based on two fundamentally different kinds of timecosts. Besides his work in mathematics, algorithms and complexity theory, Professor Fellows is noted for his seminal contributions to the popular communication of the mathematical sciences and related efforts in Computer Science curriculum reform at all age levels.
Joint Winner of the Rennie Memorial Medal 2023
Associate Professor Christoph Nitsche from the Research School of Chemistry at the Australian National University, a former Feodor Lynen Fellow and winner of the Association’s 2022 Peter Schwerdtfeger Award, was joint winner of the 2023 Rennie Memorial Medal. The Medal is awarded by the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) for research excellence in chemical science by a RACI member who, as an early career scientist, has contributed “towards the development of some branch of chemical science”.
Input into National Reviews
Associate Professor Ronald Clarke of the University of Sydney prepared submissions to two major national reviews on behalf of, and in consultation with, members of our Association and also the Australian Association of University Professors. Input was submitted to the Australia Research Council (ARC) review, for which the final report was published in March 2023, and in response to the Universities Accord Panel interim report, which was released in June 2023. A key focus of the submissions was eliminating political intervention in grant approvals, a development critical for fostering international research collaboration. The ARC review report, Trusting Australia’s Ability, quoted from our submission (p. 26): “By politically interfering in the grant approval process and attempting to direct research towards short-term gain, perhaps for political purposes, it’s hard to judge what scientific advances and economic benefits might be lost to Australia”. I thank Associate Professor Clarke for his initiative in support of best practice and the flourishing of international research collaboration.
AAvHF members, through research partnerships and other collaborations, continue to foster German-Australian cooperation – “once a Humboldtian, always a Humboldtian”! Locally, there is also participation in key activities such as the Falling Walls Lab and German Week celebrations in Adelaide and Brisbane. Associate Professor Finlayson regularly communicates with AAvHF members in relation to such events.
Falling Walls is a unique global hub connecting science, business and society. It seeks “to shape the future of humanity by impact-oriented ideas and discoveries, driven by shared dedication for creating breakthroughs across borders and disciplines. As a vessel for the world-changing spirit of 1989 in and beyond Berlin”, it is “on a relentless pursuit to find out: Which are the next walls to fall?”. A number of AAvHF members actively support the program in Australia which sends finalists to the Summit in Berlin.
This year Professor Hans Bachor, ACT representative on the AAvHF national committee, was involved in the Canberra event at the Australian Academy of Science and accompanied the Australian team to Berlin for the Falling Walls Summit on 7-9 November where pitches from 95 contenders were delivered. An Australian contribution by Dr Emma-Anne Karlsen from the University of Queensland won the bronze medal for her presentation entitled “Breaking the Wall of Cancer Therapy’. It is anticipated that in 2024, with the support of the Honorary Consuls, involvement in the Falling Walls program will increase across Australia. Professor Bachor was also invited by the Humboldt Foundation to the eleventh Bonn Humboldt Award Winners’ Forum entitled Quantum Science: From Foundations to Instrumentation on 18-22 October.
Dr Emma-Anne Karlsen in Berlin
In Melbourne, Honorargeneralkonsul Michael Pearce SC again hosted his annual Runden Tisch. The lunchtime gathering on 14 June brought together some two dozen German groups based in Victoria and encompassing aged care, cultural, educational, industrial, media, professional and religious bodies. I represented the Australian Association and enjoyed the interaction with representatives of the other agencies.
The Ferdinand von Mueller Fellowship
In 2004, the Australian Association was successful in establishing a memorandum of understanding with the Australian Research Council (ARC) to support a Ferdinand von Mueller Fellowship. By enabling German researchers to come to Australia under the Fellowship program, the arrangement was intended to reciprocate, in a small way, the generous support provided to Australian researchers by Germany through the Humboldt Foundation. The Fellowship, which operated as part of the ARC International Linkage Scheme, unfortunately ceased in 2009 when this ARC Scheme ended. Since that time, the Association has sought to have the Fellowship re-established as part of the ARC’s grants program. This year Professor Malpas revised the documentation associated with the Fellowship and initiated contact with the new Ambassador of the Federal Republic of German, His Excellency Markus Ederer, in support of this initiative.
The Australian Association is seeking the re-establishment of at least one annual Ferdinand von Mueller Fellowship, potentially funded by the ARC or another Australian Government research agency. Two options have been proposed for consideration:
- fully funded Ferdinand von Mueller Fellowships offered to internationally recognised German scholars to join an Australian research laboratory for a period of up to three years;
- funded Ferdinand von Mueller Fellowships offered to Feodor Lynen Fellows to join an Australian research laboratory for a period of up to three years with the funding from the two awards equating to a fully funded fellowship.
Gratitude to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation – 2023 Kolleg Grant
In 2023 a AAvHF member, Professor Miguel Vatter from the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University, gained a Humboldt Kolleg grant for a conference entitled New Frontiers in Religious Constitutionalism in Australia, Germany and Indonesia. The conference was organised with his colleague, Professor Mark Brett FAHA from Whitely College, the University of Divinity. It was held on 5-7 December at Trinity College Theological School in Parkville, another member College of the University of Divinity. We acknowledge with gratitude the generosity of the Humboldt Foundation in supporting the conference. I participated in the opening of the conference, made a presentation to attendees on the Humboldt Foundation and attended a most enjoyable conference dinner.
2024 Joint Australian and New Zealand Biennial Conference
Planning has commenced the next joint conference of the Australian and New Zealand Associations, which will be hosted by the University of Otaga. The chair of the organising committee is Professor Joerg Frauendiener from Dunedin, President of the New Zealand Association. The conference theme, Oceania—Europe: Partnership in the Spirit of Humboldt, seeks to foster input from the various Wissenschaften presented to a multidisciplinary audience.
I encourage you all to attend what will be our twentieth Australian biennial meeting. Over coming months, Associate Professor Finlayson will provide you with updates and information about applying to attend and submitting an abstract.
Service of AAvHF Executive
I express my gratitude to all the members of the AAvHF national executive and especially to Vice-President Professor Malpas, Honorary Secretary Associate Professor Finlayson and Treasurer Professor Gary Bryant – each of them makes a major commitment to the Association on your behalf and we are indebted to them.
The 2022 general meeting of the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows elected the following office bearers for the period 2023-2024:
AAvHF Executive and National Committee 2023-2024
|Professor Gabrielle McMullen AM
|Professor Jeff Malpas
|Associate Professor Trevor Finlayson
|Professor Gary Bryant
|Australian Capital Territory representative
|Professor Hans Bachor
|New South Wales representative
|Dr Glen Wheeler
|Northern Territory representative
|Professor Michael Fellows
|Associate Professor Thomas Haselhorst
|South Australia representative
|Revd Dr Stephen Hultgren
|Tasmania representative and Webmaster
|Dr Nathan Kilah
|Dr Sarah Turpin-Nolan
|West Australia representative
|Associate Professor Scott Stewart
|Member of the executive (immediate Past President)
|Professor Rob Robson
|Member of the executive
|Dr Christoph Nitsche
I would strongly encourage AAVHF members to recruit other Humboldtians to join the Association and take part in our activities, thereby fostering the Australian Humboldt family. Professor Bryant, as Treasurer, works actively to recruit Fellows to the Association and then to support members. Membership applications from former Alexander von Humboldt and Feodor Lynen Fellows should be sent to him – the biennial membership fee is $40, and Professor Bryant sends a renewal reminder every two years. His contact details are: Professor Gary Bryant, Associate Dean Physics, School of Science, RMIT University, GPO Box 2476, Melbourne, 3001. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Frohe Weihnachten und alles Gute zum Neuen Jahr!
With very best wishes,
Gabrielle McMullen AM
President, Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows