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Structure & Tasks

Learned Society and Scientific Organisation Promoting Innovative Research

The Austrian Academy of Sciences represents a learned society like the great European academies on the one hand and Austria's leading non-university institution for basic research on the other. It is currently promoting 28 research institutions. The Austrian Academy of Sciences consists of two sections, the Section for Mathematics and the Natural Sciences and the Section for the Humanities and the Social Sciences. By way of election, scholars from Austria and abroad are included among the full members, corresponding members or the honorary members of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Elections take place once a year and are based on suggestions of the full members of the Academy. According to the statutes of the Austrian Academy of Sciences full members are limited to the number of 90 (45 scholars for each section), while 250 scholars (125 for each section, 55 of which from Austria and 70 from abroad) can be appointed corresponding members (these numbers do not include Academy members who are older than 70, who also fully maintain their electoral rights). Presently, the Academy has up to 600 members. The Austrian Academy of Sciences is headed by the Presiding Committee composed of four representatives elected from among the full members of the Academy. In association with the plenary session and the sessions of the two sections, it forms the decision-making body of the Academy.

The Tasks of the Austrian Academy of Sciences

"The Austrian Academy of Sciences is a legal entity under the special protection of the Federal Republic of Austria. (...) Its mission is to promote the sciences and humanities in every respect and in every field, particularly in basic research.
(Quotation from the statutes of the Austrian Academy of Sciences)

As a learned society including highly qualified researchers from Austria and abroad, the Austrian Academy of Sciences performs its principal duty by supporting research institutions and research activities, which are widely known for their important and highly remunerative research projects in the field of basic research. The institutions of the Austrian Academy of Sciences are also engaged in applied research, write reports and statements related to research policy and are closely interlinked with international research projects and scientific organisations. Young and successful researchers presenting excellent results of scientific research are promoted by the Academy with awards and eight scholarship programmes.

International and Interdisciplinary Relations

Against the background of European integration, global networking and international competition, the Austrian Academy of Sciences has presently the primary aim to support top-quality research institutions in those fields which are either excluded from universities, despite their actual importance, which out of their structural difference cannot be dealt with at universities or which are placed in between the major fields tought at universities. While the latter are mainly focussing the connection of research and teaching, the most important duty of the Austrian Academy of Sciences is its "exploratory" performance in medium- and long-term research. Compared to university institutions, interdisciplinary and complementary approaches are essential criteria of research of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Examples for the interdisciplinary and complementary performance of the Academy institutions are space research, the maintenance of clean air, demography, aging reserach, Iranian studies or the field of "Institutional Change and European Integration. Going beyond conventional delimitations, testing and expanding important research trends and advocating their inclusion in university teaching and research, the Austrian Academy of Sciences represents the Austrian scientific "laboratory". Members of the Academy, who very often belong to the faculty of Austrian universities, assume the function of giving advisory and supervisory impulses.

The administration of numerous national and international research programmes is another important task of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Some of the research institutions of the Academy closely collaborate with leading international institutions, like for example CERN in Geneva. The participation in research programmes of the European Union has gained increasing importance in recent years. At present bilateral agreements with some 47 partner institutions in 43 countries provide the opportunity to participate in international research projects on an exchange basis.

Quality Based on Evaluation

Due to its autonomous position the Austrian Academy of Sciences can flexibly react to changing circumstances. It has the prerequisites to establish research institutions of differing size or structure within a relatively short period or to close them in case the topicality or quality of the research performance is no longer evident, which has happened several times in recent years. Research projects leading to scientific results which form the basis for further detailed research in the specific field and thus depend on long-term planning assume special importance among the tasks and duties of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. In the humanities, such projects are for example the elaboration of encyclopedia and dictionaries, the compilation of text corpora, annotated editions and the scientific responsibility of archives. In the field of the natural sciences, investigations of biodiversity and biological long-time series are to be mentioned in this context. With its Medium-Term Research Programme ("Mittelfristiges Forschungsprogramm") the Austrian Academy of Sciences has initiated a process of evaluation and quality assessment which constitutes the basis for permanent structural reform, that is for the continuation, new orientation or closure of the respective research unit. This form of research planning introduced into Austrian research institutions by the Austrian Academy of Sciences and practised for the first time in 1996 aims at the adaptation of the research programme of the Academy and at ensuring the excellence of the achieved scientific results.

Basic Research and Applied Research

The Austrian Academy of Sciences includes outstanding scientists from Austria and from abroad among its members, who represent all fields of research. Staff members of the research institutions promoted by the Academy are highly qualified and internationally renowned scientists. The Academy thus has the prerequisites for compiling interdisciplinary reports and for lending advisory support to the legislative body. As mentioned above, basic research is an integral part of the scientific performance of the research institutions of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. However, the connection and combination of basic and applied research gained increasing importance in recent years. By establishing research associations and limited liability companies the Academy is exploring new perspectives of institutional organisation. The research contract with Boehringer Ingelheim group of companies, one of the world's leading pharmaceutical corporations, initiated close cooperation of academic research and the economy.

Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, Library, Computer Center ...

From 1973 onwards, the Academy has its own publishing house printing the latest research results. Between 60 and 80 publications come out every year. The Academy has one of the most important libraries in Austria comprising at present up to 300,000 books. The scientific archives of the Academy illuminate the biographical background of Austria’s history of research and include numerous unpublished manuscripts of scholars. The Computer Center (ARZ) provides for modern computer technology and offers innovative solutions to problems of data security and communication.