The Leopoldina, a 350-year-old scientific academy based in Halle, is to become Germany's first national academy of sciences.

The country's science minister, Annette Schavan, announced her decision in a radio interview on 16 November ? without having first told the Leopoldina or Germany's seven regional science academies. In its new role, the Leopoldina will advise the government, parliament and the public about socially relevant scientific issues.

Schavan hopes that the decision will end a decade-long debate over whether to promote any of the regional academies to the national level. Germany's scientific organizations, including the Leopoldina, had recommended strongly against the move ? favouring instead the creation of a 200-strong council appointed by the regional academies.

The 1,280-member Leopoldina now plans to collaborate with the other academies to produce science-led policy advice, says its secretary-general, Jutta Schnitzer-Ungefug.