Summary of the panel discussion on 08.04.2018

Introduction: President Beisiegel

1st Speech: Tanja Gabriele Baudson (co-organizer of MfS Germany):

  • We need to work on more and easily understandable communication with the public
  • Find ways to address negative/etc. results that cannot be published & publication bias
  • Awarded excellence in teaching for work incl. MfS

2nd Speech: Stefan Herminghaus (Director of MPI for Dynamics & Self-Organisation)

  • Is basic research Expensive/useless/elite?
  • Only a few euros per person in Germany actually go to the MPIs for their research.; his seems quite a low cost for the high level of research
  • There should be a greater focus on the ultimate societal goal of the research, even if each individual project is not directly applicable
  • We need to regain the trust of politicians and the public
  • The errors that occur in science have to be corrected
  • We must improve communication
  • We have to find a better way to explain the consequences of bad communication or missing information/knowledge


Aneke Dornbusch (PhD Theology)

  • Used the example of theology to explain how it can be difficult for people to understand what research is about
  • Definitely due to a lack of communication
  • Examples such as “ask me anything” can help
  • One way to reach people and have an impact is to show how to make better decisions in daily life to improve living conditions and sustainability
  • Started a blog to explain her research to a wider audience, tries to describe things in a way that is understandable to anyone

Stephan Herminghaus (MPI)

  • It would be very easy for populism to change everything because one election can do it
  • We need to focus on making things work with society and the environment (not just getting off the planet)
  • Find practical uses for research
  • Simplifying enough to explain without getting the explanation wrong can be difficult, often need to be less precise to make things understandable to the General public

Ulrike Beisiegel (President)

  • Initiative in DFG to get young scientists to write more in common language, avoid complexity just to make articles sound better, focus on wider communication

Tanja Gabriele Baudson (MfS org)

  • Populism just as present in Germany with AfD etc
  • Though cience itself less directly attacked in general
  • Should not just focus on cognitive capacity / intelligence, also need to consider moral and emotional qualities for positions and leadership
  • Old psychology no longer so important in psychology research, mainly held on to by medical establishment
  • Sensational headlines are preferred no only in media, but also in science and publications
  • Need to make communication to public a more important element, also as requirement for open positions

Maria Ximena Ordonez (Literature Research US)

  • Germany has advantage due to better political situation
  • Interest between scientific fields (interdisciplinary research) can lead to better solutions
  • The selection of the audience is highly influential, and as most research is pointed at publications for researchers, not the public or students, it lacks in accessibility


  • Maybe make it clear that science can be done by anyone, not just scientists, to help reach the public
  • Focusing on alternative facts, trump, AfD, misses many other issues
  • Should not just focus on differences between facts and alternative facts or increasing the amount of information, as there already is a lot there. Should explain the methods of how we get there, the scientific process, and how to differentiate ideas versus hypotheses, and assumptions versus tested knowledge
  • How about making it possible for anyone to spend part of their workweek thinking and analyzing, reading and researching

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