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Brussels, New York, Black Forest

In January 2020, Annette Doll became the new managing director of the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies

Freiburg, Feb 11, 2020

Brussels, New York, Black Forest

Photo: Thomas Kunz

After almost two years with no head of management, the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) now has a new managing director: Dr. Annette Doll. She has a long career in the national and international world of academia under her belt, her own approach to science management, and lots of new ideas about how the FRIAS research college in Freiburg can be developed further.

“I see myself as someone who brings people together, helps them to develop ideas, and provides researchers with support,” says Annette Doll about her new job. Photo: Thomas Kunz

Annette Doll is interested in people. She is especially fascinated by people who like to think, research, and get things moving. Her office on the ground floor of FRIAS at the University of Freiburg, which she only just moved into in January 2020, is living proof of this. The sill of her window is crowded with portraits of great minds. Jean-Paul Sartre looks like he’s trying to catch Hannah Arendt’s eye, while Laurie Anderson looks thoughtfully into the distance. Nestled in between is a book of photographs – Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton – and a picture of Doll’s family.

The office doesn’t look at all like it’s been empty for almost two years. That’s how long it’s been since Doll’s predecessor left the management team of FRIAS. As new managing director, Doll is looking forward to the challenges of her new position. She points out that FRIAS is already a renowned institute with a well-coordinated management team and outstanding researchers. Her goal now is to further develop FRIAS’s core themes – human rights research, responsible artificial intelligence, reflecting on the impact of science and technology, and Africa-related research – hand-in-hand with the board of directors, colleagues from the various university departments, and partner institutions. Doll would also like to expand the institute’s different programs and types of funding, while keeping it open to new ideas. She is now in the perfect position to do this: In December 2019, the state legislature of Baden-Württemberg decided to permanently integrate FRIAS into its budget. This means that, now that the institute’s funding is secured for the long-term, it can concentrate on the future.

Bringing people together and providing support

Doll is not only a science manager; she also studied literature and is ideally equipped for the task at hand. “In English, there is a great word for this: ‘facilitator,’” says Doll: “I see myself as someone who brings people together, helps them to develop ideas, and provides researchers with support.” In her work at FRIAS, Doll can rely on her many years of experience working at the European Liaison Office of the German Research Organizations in Brussels, the German Research Foundation (DFG) Office North America in New York, and the DFG headquarters in Bonn.

The experience Doll gained in the academic world of North America was particularly formative. On the other side of the Atlantic, the exchange of ideas and the communication among academics is characterized by respect for others and their ideas, while institutional hierarchies play only a minor role. Doll was also impressed by the cultural and social diversity she encountered in the research landscape in the US: “What I saw there was integration in practice. I think that FRIAS can also make an important contribution in this area.”

Bringing people together, both inside and outside of the university, is one of Doll’s central goals. “Whether it’s global history, artificial intelligence, or environmental sciences, all of FRIAS’s research projects and interests are highly relevant for our society and are of great interest to students and to the residents of Freiburg.”

Working one-on-one with researchers

What inspired Annette Doll to want to become the managing director of a comparatively small institute in the quiet, mid-sized city of Freiburg after a career at major international organizations? At her last position as program director in Bonn, where she built up and expanded research-related information infrastructures, she says that her colleagues were wonderful, but something was missing: “My last position was the first time I didn’t have much to do with actual research, and I missed working with researchers.”

When she happened to see the job offer in Freiburg, she was immediately excited. She spontaneously decided to call the FRIAS executive director Prof. Dr. Bernd Kortmann before making up her mind to apply for the position. She also has personal reasons: Her husband’s family owns a house in the Black Forest, which the couple are now renovating. “Family and friends always laughed when we said ‘someday we’re going to move to Freiburg.’” After having lived in many places all over the world, she is settling down in the Black Forest after all.

Verena Spohn


Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies