Assessing the effects of the German Excellence Initiative with bibliometric methods
The German Excellence Initiative started in 2006 as a public funding program of crucial importance for German universities. Since this time, several studies on different aspects of the program have been conducted, but there have been no analyses using bibliometric methods to measure the direct effects of funding—which is apparently due to the fact that publications resulting from the funding program are not publicly and comprehensively documented. This paper uses the concept of highly cited publications to measure excellent research, and explores two methodological approaches in order to attribute highly cited publications to the Excellence Initiative. To this end, the paper focuses on publications produced by the clusters of excellence (CoEs). The clusters of excellence constitute only one of three funding lines, but receive 60 % of the total funding of the excellence program and form the core research units of the Excellence Initiative. The highly cited publications of the CoEs are identified via self-selected lists of publications in the CoE renewal proposals and via a funding acknowledgement analysis. The validity of both data sources is analyzed comparatively. Based on the objectives of the Excellence Initiative, its effects on the level of funded clusters, universities and the overall German research system are explored. The bibliometric analysis gives evidence that the funding program has succeeded in concentrating excellent research and fostering collaborations between universities and the non-university research sector, but has not caused massive changes to the overall German research system.