Opportunities for Cooperation: A new DAAD Scheme brings German and Sri Lanka Researchers closer together

The DAAD and National Science Foundation (NSF) Sri Lanka have launched a new joint mobility program to strengthen cooperation between academic and research institutions from Germany and Sri Lanka.

Heike Mock, Director the DAAD office in New Delhi that is responsible for Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka in addition to India, outlines the details of this programme.

Ms Mock, what makes Sri Lanka an interesting cooperation partner for Germany in the field of research?

Though Sri Lanka is a small country that was plagued by civil war and insurgency for a long time, its socio-political situation has greatly stabilised in recent past. It has had a positive impact on its academic structure and systems. The Sri Lankan government has realised that on the academic front investments need to be made not only in infrastructure but also in personnel. There indeed is a great need and scope for reforms in the academic sector, but that is also a reason why the sector holds a great promise. Sri Lanks's willingness to invest future is palpable. The country has reached a stage where we see instituting a programme of this kind as being possible and mutually beneficial. The establishment of DAAD Information Centre in Colombo in October 2017 stands as a testimonial to our belief that the Sri Lankan higher education and research sector is ready to achieve new heights. Sri Lanka has a great potential that needs to be explored.

What were the decisive reasons for the NSF in Sri Lanka to initiate this programme together with the DAAD?

Universities in Sri Lanka are generally keen on international cooperation. Germany is renowned for its high-end research. The DAAD too is recognised in Sri Lanka as a reliable partner. This programme aims at developing research cooperation between Sri Lanka and Germany as partners on equal footing. Universities in Sri Lanka want to work on improving the quality of research and education in the country. The DAAD sees a great scope for development in the current educational scenario in Sri Lanka and understands that this new programme as a great opportunity for capacity building in the universities.

Heike Mock: “Sri Lanka has proved itself to be excellent in certain subject fields.”

From the German perspective which subject fields come into question for such bilateral cooperation with Sri Lanka?

The scheme is open for all subjects and does not focus on specific branches of knowledge or research topics. However Sri Lanka has shown great promise in certain fields such as medicine and life sciences. It is not a very well-known fact that a large number of medical professionals in South Asia get their training in India and Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is very strong in disciplines such as tropical forestry as well as climate and environmental studies.

The new programme with Sri Lanka is one of the DAAD’s Project-based Personnel Exchange (PPP) initiatives. The goal of this programme is promoting mobility among researchers and as just as importantly, connecting senior and young scholars. How does one ensure that these goals are reached?

DAAD's PPP is a well-established model, under which typically small projects with two-year duration are funded. Experts from Sri Lanka can go to Germany for up to a month and a half, and German experts can spend similar duration in Sri Lanka. It is important that these visits are used to get to know the research partners and their work well so that the cooperation emerges stronger, and further networks are developed. The German and Sri Lankan sides also need to include at least one doctoral or a post-doctoral researcher each in the project.

Is it still possible to apply under this programme?

Applications for the PPP are possible till the 30th of August. Researchers from Sri Lanka can find further details on the NSF website  and those from Germany can apply online via the DAAD portal. Another interesting feature of this programme is that each side finances the travel and stay costs for its own experts. This is not typical of programmes of this kind, and the DAAD sees this as a clear and therefore important sign of the importance the Sri Lanka attaches to developing scientific cooperation with Germany.

Interview by Claudia Wallendorf (17 July 2018)
Translation by Aditi Gosavi (Original text on daad.de)