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'Freigeist' Fellowship for Dr Stefanie Büchner

'Freigeist' Fellowship for Dr Stefanie Büchner

Volkswagen Foundation awards grant for research project scheduled to start in December

Setting yourself apart from “mainstream research” and tackling risky research topics – these are the key criteria for becoming a 'Freigeist' Fellow of the Volkswagen Foundation. Eight junior researchers from universities from all over Germany impressed the international committee of the foundation with their unconventional projects. One of them is Dr Stefanie Büchner and her junior research group “Digital Cases”. Their project at Leibniz University Hannover is scheduled to start on 1 December.

Complex digital infrastructures, such as in patient information systems become increasingly important in many organisations. The junior research group “Digital Cases” conducts empirical research on how complex and integrated digital control systems develop the potential for an active role in the processing of cases. The group is led by Stefanie Büchner and uses an ethnographic approach, which covers a wide range of organisations. Within the framework of the project, researchers will compare potential structuring effects of digitisation in a hospital, a social services agency, and a court of law. With the study, “Digital Cases” will provide an empirically-based and conceptual answer to the question of how the relationship between organisation, profession and digitisation changes.

The 'Freigeist' Fellowships of the Volkswagen Foundation address free thinkers from all scientific disciplines with up to four years of postdoctoral experience. Aside from outstanding professional expertise, 'Freigeist' fellows should think outside the box and possess skills for critical analysis, as well as being able to adopt unconventional perspectives in order to explore new approaches. These requirements are reflected in the projects of the early career researchers that have been selected for the fellowship this year. Topics include research on the democratisation process in Indonesia and Turkey, the correlation between globalisation and criminal networks, as well as research on adaptive neuroprostheses for the treatment of Parkinson's disease.

Approximately 90 junior researchers submitted an application last October, eight proposals were approved by the board of trustees. Since 2014, up to fifteen 'Freigeist' Fellows are selected every year.

The fellowship initiative of the Volkswagen Foundation also aims at establishing reliable career paths for future generations of researchers. In order to achieve this objective, the fellowship is to be more flexible regarding the amount of funding and the duration of the grant: as of 11 October 2018, the next application deadline, researchers will be able to apply for up to 1.8 million euros in the first funding period with a duration of five or six years. Thus, junior researchers could realise their projects in the framework of a junior professorship and establish their own research profile.