Petition against discontinuing the funding for the Leibniz Institute for Solar Physics (KIS)

Petition is directed to
Leibniz-Gemeinschaft (Leibniz Association), Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst Baden-Württemberg, Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung BMBF, Gemeinsame Wissenschaftskonferenz des Bundes und der Länder GWK
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We request that the Leibniz-Institut für Sonnenphysik (KIS, previously known as the Kiepenheuer-Institut für Sonnenphysik) in Freiburg, Germany retains its current level of funding, thus securing its continued functioning, ideally within the Leibniz Association. This request comes in response to the recommendation of the Leibniz-Senate: “The Senate of the Leibniz Association recommends that the Federal and State Governments terminate the joint funding of KIS as an institution for research and scientific infrastructure, […]”

We ask the international research community to sign this petition and support the funding of KIS at an unchanged level.


The Leibniz Institute for Solar Physics (KIS, is a research institute in Freiburg, in the state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, with 70 employees, including 26 scientists. The mission of KIS is to study the fundamental physical processes taking place on our host star, the Sun, which helps us understand Sun-Earth interactions and other stars in the Universe.

KIS has become one of the pillars of the international solar physics community by providing observational infrastructure, fostering innovative research, and educating young scientists. The recommendation of the Leibniz senate implies a very uncertain future for the institute, with the possibility of closure in the upcoming few years. 

Termination of the funding for KIS would significantly impact solar physics research, an essential area of astrophysics, in multiple ways:

  • First, it would result in the potential closure of the solar observatory, located on Tenerife (Spain), that hosts the largest European solar telescope, GREGOR, and is operated under the leadership of KIS. Hundreds of scientists from all over the world have conducted observations of the Sun with these telescopes.
  • Second, it would end the development of cutting-edge technology in Baden-Württemberg of the type operating on, e.g., the Solar Orbiter space mission, the SUNRISE stratospheric balloon-borne observatory, and soon the US-American 4-metre Daniel. K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST). 
  • Third, it would have negative consequences for advancing theoretical knowledge on physical processes on the Sun, as KIS contributes to the numerical tools and computer models that benefit the entire research community. 
  • Finally, it would limit the education of young scientists, as KIS offers international training schools at its telescopes, broadens the curriculum of the University of Freiburg by teaching courses in astrophysics, and supervises theses of undergraduate and graduate students. Many scientists that are currently in leading positions worldwide were educated at KIS, or spent significant time there during their careers.

In summary, KIS is a major research centre for solar physics. The closure of KIS would cause the community to lose access to important telescopes, would have negative consequences for prestigious space missions, would halt large international research projects, and would completely remove solar and stellar physics education at the University of Freiburg.

The objectives of this petition are threefold:

  • to express that the decision of the Senate of the Leibniz Association is very unexpected, 
  • to confirm the relevance of KIS for solar physics, and 
  • to request that KIS continues to be funded in the years to come. 

Therefore, we invite you to express your support by signing this petition, ideally before July 31, 2023.

This petition will be handed to the relevant ministries. Optionally, the online form allows you to provide specific reasons for your support, which will make the impact of your signature more substantial. Please keep the tone of your potential additional statements objective and avoid being abusive or rude. 

Please share the link to this petition and encourage colleagues to sign it as well. 

If you have questions or are unsure, please contact:

Thank you for your time and support!

Laurent Gizon, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (

Markus Roth, Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg (

Sami K Solanki, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (

Klaus Strassmeier, Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (

Thank you for your support, Prof. Dr. Markus Roth from Tautenburg
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Ich arbeite als Sonnenphysiker am Max-Planck-Institut an den Projekten Sunrise und SolarOrbiter, für die KIS die Bildstabilisierung entwickelt hat. KIS betreibt außerdem das größte europäische Sonnenteleskop. Ein Schließen des Instituts würde die Technologieentwicklung auf diesem Gebiet nachhaltig schädigen und würde unweigerlich dazu führen, dass Europa den Anschluss an die Weltspitze auch auf diesem Gebiet verlieren wird.

The independent scientific evaluation of the overall situation concludes that the KIS is neither of supra-regional importance nor of national science policy interest to the extent required. Since the last evaluation, the number of scientific employees has decreased, the institute's management is moving to Switzerland, the number of third-party funding sources is decreasing, and central questions of scientific strategy remain unanswered.

Why people sign

Das Sonnenphysik-Institut in Freiburg ist vom Auftrag her das Deutsche Gegenstück zum National Solar Observatory (NSO) der USA. Neben der eigentlichen Erforschung der Sonne selbst, sind beide Institute, DIE nationalen Einrichtungen für die Entwicklung, den Bau, den Betrieb und den Unterhalt von bodengebundenen Teleskopen und Instrumenten.

Die Wichtigkeit der Erforschung der Sonne kann hier nicht diskutiert werden, man kann sie aber schon alleine daraus ablesen, dass die USA gerade mehrere Hundertmillionen Dollar in den Bau des DKI-Sonnenteleskops investiert haben. Es ist das mit großem Abstand modernste und größte Sonnenteleskop das je gebaut wurde - und für das das Freiburger Institut das komplexeste Instrument äußerst erfolgreich baut.

Das "Kiepenheuer-Institut" in Freiburg, ist einer der wichtigsten Adressen weltweit in der Sonnenforschung, seit nunmehr 80 Jahren. Neben Forschung und Entwicklung ist das Institut auch für seine Ausbildung neuer Generationen bekannt und eine international unverzichtbare Größe.

Deutschland, der Bund, Baden-Würrtemberg und die Länder, müssen das Institut, das eigentlich DAS Deutsche Zentrum für Sonnenphysik ist, weiterhin und vollumfänglich fördern. Ohne das Zentrum im Baden-Württembergischen Freiburg halte ich den Anschluss Deutschlands, wenn nicht auch sogar in der längeren Folge den Anschluss Europas, an die weltweite Sonnenforschung für fundamental gefährdet.

Es gilt nun schnellstmöglich eine neue Leitung einzusetzen, die das Institut auf eine langfristige und erfolgreiche Zukunft als Sonnenforschungszentrum ausrichtet - und sie mit den nötigen Mitteln dafür auszustatten.

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