The Max Planck Society (MPS) is an independent public-benefit research organisation. It was reconstituted on 26 February 1948 as the successor to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft, founded in 1911.
The MPS carries out research in its (at present) 80 institutes, research laboratories and working groups and Centres of Excellence, concentrating on basic research into the natural sciences, ecology and the humanities that will benefit the public. Thus the Max Planck Institutes (MPI) support the work done at universities in important areas of research.
The international outreach of the MPS functions basically at two levels:
1) In terms of research policy, the MPS contributes to the national and international debate on the aims of research policies and the contents of research promotion. The MPS itself and its scientific members are in turn members of the most important international advisory committees on research policy and scientific organisations (e.g. the European Science Foundation). Such memberships add indirectly to the international cooperations the Max Planck Institutes are involved in.
2) Through its own institutes, the MPS reaches out internationally in various ways: by appointing scientific staff members and directors also from foreign countries; by implementing joint research projects; by choosing the members of expert advisory councils, and by concluding cooperation agreements.
In addition, the MPS promotes international exchanges of scientists and participates in the running of joint research institutes. The responsibility for the Society's international cooperative ventures lies, however, primarily with the individual MPI. These have concluded a great number of bilateral agreements with foreign partner institutions.
It is a central research-political aim of the MPS to integrate its institutes in the cooperative network of European scientific research.
The European research subsidies are therefore an essential corner stone of the MPS's third-party funding.
The institutes participate in EU research programmes where they can contribute to European efforts by their own research work, where they can apply their specific knowledge and skills and at the same time benefit themselves from the findings. Their main interest is in international exchanges of scientists and especially in encouraging the mobility of young scientific talents.
The MPS entertains six research institutes abroad:
- The Netherlands: Max-Planck-Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen
- Italy: Biblioteca Hertziana-Istituto Max Planck, Rome, and Institute of Art History in Florence/Istituto Max Planck, Firenze
- Spain: Observatorio Calar Alto/German-Spanish Astronomic Centre, Almeria (branch of MPI for Astronomy, Heidelberg)
- France: High-field Magnetic Laboratory, Grenoble (branch of MPI for Solid State Research, Stuttgart)
- Brazil: Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia, Manaus (branch of MPI for Limnology, Plön).
This initiative of the MPS offers young German and foreign scientists (including foreigners living in Germany) the chance of post-graduate study periods to prepare their dissertation at specially selected MPIs with excellent research and study facilities and affiliated to near-by universities. The dissertation examination may then be taken at such a university.
The programme places special emphasis on international co-operation. International Max Planck Research Schools wish to encourage candidates, especially foreigners, to complete doctoral theses in Germany, to make them familiar with German research institutions and interested in working in Germany or co-operating with German scientific organisations. At least half of the students at International Max Planck Research Schools should therefore come from abroad.
Since 2001 the MPIs and a number of universities have jointly established nineteen International Max Planck Research Schools. More than 50 per cent of the doctoral candidates are foreigners.